February 5, 2008 / 5:38 PM / 11 years ago

S.Africa slams Kenya over mediator rejection

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa said on Tuesday Kenya’s government deserved contempt for its objections to a prominent anti-apartheid figure nominated as a mediator in the east African country’s bloody conflict.

Business tycoon Cyril Ramaphosa, proposed by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan to lead long-term negotiations to end the Kenya crisis, pulled out on Monday after Nairobi complained he had business links with opposition leader Raila Odinga.

“The South African government strongly rejects the erroneous argument by the (Kenyan) government that Mr Ramaphosa could not be an honest broker,” the deputy foreign affairs minister said.

“The reasons given by the (Kenyan) government are rejected with the contempt they deserve,” Aziz Pahad told reporters, according to the South African Press Association.

A government spokesman confirmed the remarks.

Ramaphosa has denied links to Odinga.

A widely respected figure in South Africa, Ramaphosa was the chief negotiator for the African National Congress (ANC) in talks that led to the end of apartheid in 1994.

Reservations about him by the government of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki — which has been reluctant to accept outside mediation — seems to have caused a major row with Africa’s economic powerhouse.

Annan is negotiating with teams representing Kibaki and Odinga to try to end post-election violence that has killed at least 1,000 people and find a lasting political solution.

Reporting by Phumza Macanda; editing by Barry Moody and Matthew Jones

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