Page last updated at 10:19 GMT, Friday, 11 September 2009 11:19 UK

US urges caution on Afghan vote


'The Taliban failed in their goal of preventing the election from taking place'

The US envoy to Afghanistan has told the BBC that critics of last month's presidential election in the country should not "jump to conclusions".

Richard Holbrooke said the independent election commission should be allowed to complete its vote counting before people made judgements about the poll.

He said a rerun of the election was not a viable option.

Earlier the election complaints commission began invalidating some of the votes.

Separately, the BBC has learnt that there are specific allegations of fraud in the presidential election in an area where 10 British troops died trying to create a secure environment for the polls.

Official figures reveal serious suspicions that the subsequent election in the area was marred by massive fraud.

Mr Holbrooke told the BBC's Newsnight programme: "Not all of the people in Afghanistan were able to vote, and as I've said many times before this election, there are imperfect elections throughout the west as well, and holding elections under these conditions is a very brave thing to do so let's see what happens before jumping to conclusions."

'Credible government possible'

The British Foreign Secretary David Miliband also spoke to the BBC about the election and said he still had confidence that a fair result can be achieved.

"I think that we have always said that we want credible representation of the views of the Afghan people. This is a war-torn country and I am not going to over-claim for it, I don't talk about free and fair elections," Mr Miliband said.

David Miliband: "We have concerns about very serious allegations of fraud"

"They are clearly not under anything like normal circumstances, but I think it is still possible to have a credible government that represents the views of the Afghan people and that's why, in a way, the length of time that this is taking is testimony to the seriousness with which the electoral complaints commission are doing their work, as well as the deep troubles that there have been," he added.

In Afghanistan the election complaints commission said it was excluding votes cast at more than seventy polling stations in the south and east of the country, where it had found clear and convincing evidence of fraud.

Nearly all the votes were cast in favour of President Hamid Karzai.

The commission has also ordered recounts at a number of other polling stations.

President Karzai's supporters say many of the complaints are politically motivated.

The investigation could take months, plunging Afghanistan into political uncertainty.

The main challenger in the election Dr Abdullah Abdullah has accused the election commission of rigging the count to favour Mr Karzai.

He told the BBC that he ruled out working with him in any kind of power-sharing deal.

Abdullah Abdullah
Election challenger Dr Abdullah says he will not work with President Karzai

Our enemy are the people of 9/11, the people who attacked the United States, the people who attacked London

Richard Holbrooke
US Afghan envoy
"I think a government whose record is very low, with corruption, it was called a narco state; rule of law, non existent, and on top of that it has committed ... fraud ... I don't see a place for myself in that sort of a government," Dr Abdullah said.

Richard Holbrooke was asked by the BBC what foreign soldiers were fighting for when the electoral process seemed mired in corruption.

"Our enemy are the people of 9/11, the people who attacked the United States, the people who attacked London, who pose a direct threat to the Western alliance, to Pakistan and Afghanistan. And who do everything they can to stimulate war between countries in the region," he said.

"That is why we are there. And that strategic goal is the reason that young American and British and other nations, young men and women have been asked to risk their lives.

"I've been out there with the troops, what they do is extraordinary, under horribly difficult conditions.

"They know why they're there, and I hope the people back home give them their full support because we all must remember why we are in Afghanistan," Mr Holbrooke added.

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