Kenya's Kibaki rejects bill limiting graft probes

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NAIROBI, Sep 28 (Reuters) Kenya's president has rejected a parliamentary bill that sought to limit probes into major corruption cases and had drawn accusations from Western governments that the country's fight against graft was slipping.

''President Mwai Kibaki has refused to assent to some of the amendments ... (specifically) amendments to the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act 2003,'' his office said in a statement released late yesterday.

Kibaki had written to the speaker of parliament outlining his reasons for rejecting the bill and making recommendations for its amendment, it said without giving any details.

Two weeks ago, mainly opposition MPs defeated a government-backed amendment to anti-corruption laws that would have given the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) power to investigate crimes before May 2003.

Current legislation stops the KACC pursuing cases dating from the 24-year rule of President Daniel arap Moi, when endemic graft nearly brought east Africa's biggest economy to its knees.

Western governments had called on Kibaki to reject the new bill after legislators also removed a clause that would have made officials declare their wealth.

In a joint statement on September 14, the United States, European Union, Canada, Norway and Switzerland said the action represented a major step backward in the fight against graft.

REUTERS SG BD1215

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