America branded 10 leading Kenyan politicians “criminals” today and banned them from entering the country.
The men, from both the president’s party and his rival’s, were accused of being involved in post-election violence that has brought the country to the brink of collapse.
The US announcement came as pressure mounted on negotiators from President Mwai Kibaki’s party and the main opposition to come to terms in peace talks mediated by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Opposition leaders say Mr Kibaki stole the December 27 vote and should step down. He has said his position as president is not negotiable, though foreign and local observers say there was election rigging.
Clashes sparked by the dispute disintegrated into ethnic fighting pitting other tribes against Mr Kibaki’s Kikuyu, and more than 1,000 have been killed and another 300,000 have fled their homes.
US Embassy spokesman TJ Dowling said MPs from both parties have been told they would not be allowed into the US because they had been involved in or incited violence.
“We don’t give visas to criminals. Inciting violence is a criminal act,” he said.
He declined to give names, but said they included MPs from both sides.
Mr Kibaki’s Party of National Unity denied its politicians had incited violence or knew about the US restrictions.
Members of opposition leader Raila Odinga’s party could not be reached for comment.
The UN Security Council deplored the violence and urged political leaders to resolve the crisis “through dialogue, negotiation and compromise.”
The council statement, issued in New York yesterdays, expressed concern at the “dire humanitarian situation” in the country and gave strong backing to the Annan-led talks that began January 29.
The European Union also expressed support for the talks.
Visiting EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel “had a very positive meeting with Kofi Annan in which he expressed the EU’s full commitment and support to Kofi Annan’s facilitation efforts,” an EU spokesman said.
Later Thursday, Michel was to meet separately with Kibaki and Odinga.
Heads of state from five East African countries also were expected in Nairobi to hold a special summit in an expression of support for Mr Annan’s peace process.
Fighting has continued in western Kenya, scene of some of the worst post-election clashes.
Police today announced that an officer accused of killing two demonstrators last month in Kisumu, western Kenya, will be charged with murder.