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PM bids to woo back British business

LONDON, July 23 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga said Wednesday that the country is back in business, after talks in London on attracting investors in the wake of post-election violence and a political stand-off.

Odinga and a delegation of ministers are in London for an investment conference hosted by Britain\’s Foreign Office in which they will bid to woo British businessmen with the pledge that Kenya is again open for trade.

"We have come to the United Kingdom with one message and that is that Kenya after the crisis is once again up and kicking," Odinga told reporters after talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

At least 1,500 people were killed following violence which erupted after President Mwai Kibaki was declared winner over Odinga of a bitterly-contested poll last December.

The unrest ended with a power-sharing deal in which President Kibaki kept his job and Odinga was named Prime Minister, taking office in April.

Despite the recent problems, Odinga, who is in London for three days, insisted that the government was "strong" and was "determined to do away with the past".

"This is a new Kenya, a Kenya that is not coming with a begging basket. It is saying we want only two things — trade and investment."

In a joint press conference at his Downing Street office, Brown expressed confidence in the strength of the government.

"I believe that the spirit in the grand coalition government in Kenya is such that they are sending out a message to the whole world that investment should take place in Kenya," he said.

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"This is a government that is determined to deal with the challenges and to move forward in a new chapter in Kenya\’s history."

He renewed his pledge that Britain would help Kenya, to rebuild, saying it was "vital to attract investment and improve economic growth".

"I\’m convinced by my talks today that Kenya\’s leaders have the will and determination to take all the steps necessary," he added.

Odinga, whose delegation includes several Kenyan businessmen, said he wants to make Kenya "one of the most attractive investment destinations in the world" and pledged to remove red tape and corruption.
He said that his government was "stable".

"It will stay the course. We are determined to do away with the past," he said. "The people of Kenya have been to the precipice. They have looked down at the abyss and they did not like what they see.

"So this is an opportunity for the Kenyans… to come up with a truly united, democratic country."

Odinga was also meeting British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Foreign Minister Mark Malloch Brown Wednesday.

The political crisis earlier this year dealt a sharp blow to Kenya\’s tourist and agricultural sectors, leaving displaced people in particular facing food shortages.

Last month, the Treasury slashed its economic growth forecast for 2008 from seven to four percent. Odinga says he hopes foreign investment can help push this to 10 percent next year.

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