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Karzai has 'grave doubts' about vote fraud panel

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai yesterday said the resignation of an Afghan member of the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission "cast serious doubt" on its work.

Mustafa Barakzai, a Supreme Court Judge who was one of two Afghans on the Commission, resigned on Monday claiming foreigners were "interfering" in its work and that Afghans had little input in its decisions. Supporters of Abdullah Abdullah, Mr Karzai's nearest rival in the August election, claimed that Mr Karzai was behind Mr Barakzai's sudden resignation.

Interviewed from Kabul on ABC television, Mr Karzai also said he was "fully behind" US General Stanley McChrystal, who has told President Barack Obama as many as 40,000 additional forces are needed to help stabilise the country.

Other Afghan politicians expressed frustration over delays to the outcome of the August presidential election, which were held up by elaborate efforts to wipe clean the widespread fraud that marred the vote.

Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, the Afghan foreign minister, said: "The people of Afghanistan have the right to know who will be the next president and whether we will we go to a second round or not. To leave the people in this vacuum, this is not in our interest. In this regard, we have our differences (with our international partners)."