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Page last updated at 16:24 GMT, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 17:24 UK

Karzai condemns EU's fraud claims

Hamid Karzai on voting day, 20 Aug
Hamid Karzai was the winner barring a miracle, his spokesman said

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's campaign team has condemned as "irresponsible" claims by EU monitors about the extent of election fraud.

The row came as the final preliminary result gave Mr Karzai victory with 54.6%. The result is not yet official.

EU election observers earlier said about 1.5m votes - about a quarter of all ballots - could be fraudulent.

The claims came amid a growing strain in the international community about how to deal with the election fallout.

Earlier, the head of the UN mission in Afghanistan admitted his deputy had left the country after a row between them over the election.

Graph

But Kai Eide, a Norwegian diplomat, denied reports he had ordered his US deputy, Peter Galbraith, to leave.

Also on Wednesday, US President Barack Obama said there was "no immediate decision pending" on sending more troops to tackle a mounting Taliban insurgency.

"You have to get the strategy right and then make the determination about resources," Mr Obama said.

His comments came a day after the top US military officer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm Mike Mullen, told the Senate that more troops might be required.

Although Wednesday's results announcement represents a complete tally of votes, the final declaration of a winner is not likely to be made for some weeks.

Mr Abdullah was listed second with 27.8% and turnout was confirmed as 38.7%.

'Interfering'

Mr Karzai's team reacted angrily to the statement of the EU monitors.

A statement from his campaign office said: "Today's announcement of the number of suspected votes, by the head and deputy head of the EU Election Monitoring Commission, is partial, irresponsible and in contradiction with Afghanistan's constitution."

ANALYSIS
Martin Patience
Martin Patience, BBC News, Kabul



This is the end of the vote count - but the election is far from finished. President Karzai may have a commanding lead in the initial results. But allegations of fraud still need to be investigated.

And how many votes are annulled will have a huge bearing on what happens next. The Electoral Complaints Commission says it is recounting votes cast at 10% of all the polling stations.

As things stand, the incumbent won't have to face a run-off. But if President Karzai's share of the vote drops below a majority - he will face a second round against his closest challenger Abdullah Abdullah.

The statement said the monitors should be referring their findings to the Independent Election Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission.

"We believe the only way we can have a legitimate result out of the current process is to allow the legal institutions to complete the process and refrain from interfering in their affairs," the statement said.

Asked about the preliminary result announcement, Karzai spokesman Waheed Omar said it still needed to be confirmed by the watchdog.

But he added: "Unless a miracle happens, we are the winner."

Dimitra Ioannou, from the EU monitoring mission, had said that of the suspicious votes cast, 1.1m were for Mr Karzai and 300,000 for his main challenger, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah.

"Massive fraud was taking place at polling station level and when all these ballot boxes arrived at the tally centres, instead of being quarantined and investigated, they were accepted as good results."

AFGHAN POLL FRAUD
15 Sep: ECC chief says 10% of votes need to be recounted
8 Sep: Poll complaints body orders some recounts nationwide
8 Sep: IEC says votes from 600 polling stations "quarantined"
3 Sep: Claims 30,000 fraudulent votes cast for Karzai in Kandahar
30 Aug: 2,000 fraud allegations are probed; 600 deemed serious
20 Aug: Election day and claims 80,000 ballots were filled out fraudulently for Karzai in Ghazni
18 Aug: Ballot cards sold openly and voter bribes offered

The BBC's Martin Patience in Kabul says the allegations could put pressure on the complaints commission to widen its investigation into voter fraud.

The EU-Karzai row was apparently mirrored in the rift within the UN mission.

Mr Eide and Mr Galbraith reportedly disagreed over the extent to which vote recounts were necessary.

Mr Galbraith was said to have advocated a wholesale recount.

Such a move would probably mean a second-round run-off, potentially leaving Afghanistan in political limbo for months.

Mr Eide said Mr Galbraith would "leave the mission for a while and then he'll come back".



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