U.S. Meets Karzai Over Vote Fraud Allegations

U.S. officials, who have poured millions of dollars into the process, have publicly declared neutrality, an attempt to counter widespread perceptions that they are trying to influence the vote.

Tonight the U.S. embassy declined to confirm whether the meeting with Karzai took place, but issued a strong paper statement earlier in the day that seemed to come in direct response to the Independent Election Commission's decision to include fraudulent votes.

U.S., U.N. Call Out Karzai Over Vote Fraud Allegations

"The United States and the international community are looking to the Independent Electoral Commission to carry out its legal mandate to count all votes and to exclude all fraudulent votes," said Caitlin Hayden, the embassy's spokeswoman. "Anything less than rigorous vetting would call into question the credibility of the announced results."

Over the last week, Karzai's aides have privately grumbled about the process, accusing the United States of meddling and arguing that their own figures showed the president being reelected with at least 55 percent of the vote.

Karzai himself told the Le Figaro newspaper that the United States was trying to manipulate him.

"The Americans attack Karzai in an underhand fashion because they want him to be more tractable," he said, according to Reuters, referring to himself in the third person.

Arsala Jamal, the former governor of Khost province and an advisor to the Karzai campaign, did not deny that fraud had been committed in the election, but said it had been committed equally by all candidates.

"We are not ruling out fraud in this election. We are not saying it was 100 percent perfect elections, there were shortcomings. There were shortcomings from all quarters. We have filed dozens of complaints against Abdullah's camp," he told ABC News over the weekend.

But the Western officials, who spoke on condition they would not be identified, said the election data clearly indicated that the vast majority of fraud had been committed on Karzai's behalf.

The officials pointed to multiple ballot stations in Helmand and Kandahar whose results seemed to suggest fraud. In areas where turnout was reported to be very low, some polling stations reported turnout higher than 90 percent.

At one polling center in Helmand's Now Zad district, Karzai received exactly 2,750 votes. His opponents received zero.

"It was a free for all," one of the Western officials said when asked about the extent of the fraud.

On Saturday, the Independent Election Commission announced it was invalidating 447 polling stations out of more than 28,000, evidence that those within the commission who wanted to identify fraud had won a serious internal debate.

U.S., U.N. Call Out Karzai Over Vote Fraud Allegations

The stations were excluded, according to the Western officials, because they triggered one of three alarm bells: Too many votes were cast (that was partially because the commission's computers couldn't input a four-digit vote total, something that happened despite each polling station only receiving 600 ballots); a candidate received over 95 percent of the vote; the polling station never opened but reported results.

"We thought we had progress," one of the western officials said about the commission's decision to annul those results.

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