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Page last updated at 21:15 GMT, Friday, 2 April 2010 22:15 UK

US seeks clarification over Karzai UN poll fraud claim

Hamid Karzai
Hamid Karzai accused the UN of being behind electoral fraud and smears

The US says it is seeking clarification over claims by the Afghan president that foreign observers were responsible for fraud in last year's disputed poll.

Hamid Karzai on Thursday accused UN and EU officials of involvement in a plot to put a puppet government in power.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Mr Karzai's comments were "genuinely troubling".

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mr Karzai had spoken about the US's concerns by phone, officials said.

Earlier, a US state department spokesman said Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador in Kabul, had met Mr Karzai "to clarify what he meant by these remarks".

More than a million votes were rejected after a recount last year, most of them for Mr Karzai.

Speaking in Kabul on Thursday, Mr Karzai said there was "no doubt there was massive fraud" in the Afghan presidential and provincial elections.

He singled out Peter Galbraith, the then deputy head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, and the EU mission head Gen Phillippe Morillon for blame.

"This wasn't fraud by Afghans but the fraud of foreigners, the fraud of Galbraith, or Morillon, and the votes of the Afghan nation were in the control of an embassy," he said.

Power struggle

Mr Karzai's spokesman, Waheed Omer, told Reuters news agency that the president and Mrs Clinton had had "a constructive conversation in a cordial environment".

Mr Karzai and Mr Obama in Kabul, 28 March 2010
Last weekend Mr Obama paid his first visit to Afghanistan since taking office

"Both sides recommitted themselves to the partnership between the two countries," Mr Omer said.

"President Karzai said the Afghan people and the Afghan government were grateful for the support and sacrifice of the international community for peace in Afghanistan and in the world."

Earlier, Mr Gibbs told reporters that Mr Karzai's comments on electoral fraud were "cause for real and genuine concern".

"We are seeking clarification from President Karzai about the nature of some of his remarks," he said.

"And I think the president was quite clear with President Karzai over the weekend of the necessary steps that have to be taken to improve governance and corruption in order to deal with the problems that we face there."

Last Sunday, US President Barack Obama made his first visit to Afghanistan since taking office.

The trip was seen as an affirmation of US support for Mr Karzai, while at the same time allowing Mr Obama to stress the need for his Afghan counterpart to tackle corruption and other issues.

Mr Karzai is currently locked in a power struggle with parliament over his attempt to appoint all the monitors in Afghanistan's election process.

He was not declared the clear winner in the first round of the 2009 presidential vote, but emerged as victor after the challenger in the second round stood down, following several months of argument.

Mr Galbraith dismissed Mr Karzai's claims on Thursday, saying the suggestion that the UN would organise electoral fraud was "absurd".

He blamed the president and some electoral officials for the fraud.



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