African Union leads diplomatic pressure to start talks and end the violence Duncan Campbell Thursday January 3, 2008 The Guardian Diplomatic efforts were gathering pace last night to try to find a swift solution to the growing crisis in Kenya after the disputed election. The president of the African Union (AU) is to meet Kenyan government and opposition leaders today, after the UK and the US governments issued a joint statement calling for an end to the fighting and for a political and legal process to resolve the dispute. The priority for President John Kufuor of Ghana, the president of the AU, will be to call for an end to the violence at talks scheduled today between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga. The two will also discuss a proposal for a government of national unity. Gordon Brown, who spoke to Kufuor yesterday, said: "I think it is very important that the international community supports the efforts of President Kufuor. He is trying very hard, with other people, to bring an end to the violence, and we will give whatever support we can. "Millions of people queued up in Kenya to cast their vote. They deserve a government that brings about stability and prosperity. They deserve to have a government that respects the will of the people. Any election irregularities have got to be properly investigated." A joint US-UK statement, issued by foreign secretary David Miliband and US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, said: "The immediate priority is to combine a sustained call from Kenya's political leaders for the cessation of violence by their followers with an intensive political and legal process that can build a united and peaceful future for Kenya." "We call on all political leaders to engage in a spirit of compromise that puts the democratic interests of Kenya first; we applaud the commitment of the EU and Commonwealth as well as the AU to stay engaged at this important moment for democracy in Africa; and we pledge the diplomatic and political efforts of our two countries to support reconciliation and national unity at this vital time for Kenya and the region." Miliband has stopped short of alleging that the election has been stolen, or of threatening sanctions. Yesterday he described the burning of a church congregation in the Rift Valley as horrific, and said there had to be speedy action both nationally and internationally to prevent the violence from escalating. Miliband told BBC's Radio 4 Today programme: "It is clear that there are major responsibilities on Kenya's political leaders, both in respect of the violence being perpetrated by some of their followers and in respect of the need to reach out and find common ground for a country - whoever actually won the election - which is obviously very deeply divided. "We don't know who won. What we know is that there are very serious allegations of irregularities; on both sides, it has to be said." He added that, with elections due this year in Angola, Malawi and Ghana, it was vital that the election process was seen to be fair. Miliband was reluctant to consider sanctions. "In the end, the people who benefit from trade with the UK and EU are the workers of Kenya," he said. "What I would say about any discussion of sanctions in the future is that there are two key issues: first, who does it help and who does it hurt, and second, does it have the desired effect?" Don McKinnon, the secretary general of the Commonwealth, said talk of suspending Kenya from the organisation was "premature", and the focus should instead fall on efforts to restore calm.