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Kenyan police have fired water cannons against several hundred anti-government protesters trying to attend a banned rally in Nairobi.

The Kenyan opposition leader, Raila Odinga, has called for a million people to turn up for the event. Security forces have surrounded the park where the rally is due to be held. Refusing to accept defeat to Mwai Kibaki in the 27 December presidential election, Mr Odinga’s party boycotted crisis talks with the new president.

Wearing white scarves and singing Kenya’s national anthem, the protesters from the Kibera slum had marched to within about a mile from Nairobi’s city centre when they were stopped by police on Thursday morning. More than 300 people have been killed and at least 70,000 driven from their homes across Kenya since Sunday. Both sides hardened their positions ahead of the planned mass rally in Uhuru Park, the BBC’s Grant Ferrett reports from Nairobi.

And hopes of outside mediation are fading with news that a visit by African Union leader John Kufuor to Nairobi is unlikely to happen, our correspondent adds. Mr Odinga said the rally would send a peaceful message to supporters opposition. Salim Lone, his campaign manager, told the BBC that his party was not courting trouble.

“The eyes of the world are on us for this rally, because everywhere Mr Odinga goes, he is asked are you going to allow this rally to happen,” he said. But Vice-President Moody Awori urged Mr Odinga to accept defeat and call off the protest. “Please do not risk the lives of Kenyans, encouraging a large crowd of people coming in Nairobi on a working day,” he said, speaking to reporters.

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