Sparks fly as US puts awkward questions to Karzai

Hamid Karzai has had a frosty meeting with Barack Obama's Afghan envoy, Richard Holbrooke, over a second round run-off in the presidential election and the deals that the incumbent President struck with warlords, according to Afghan and Western sources. The talks between Mr Holbrooke and Mr Karzai are said to have lasted lass than 30 minutes, while Mr Holbrooke's meeting with the rival presidential candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, reportedly went on for almost three hours.

Senior Afghan officials said Mr Karzai was convinced by his campaign team that he had won a resounding victory in the first ballot and resented Mr Holbrooke raising "more than once" the possibility of a second round run-off to settle the election. Mr Holbrooke is also said to have irritated Mr Karzai by wanting to discuss his electoral tactics, including gathering support from figures such as the Uzbek militia commander Abdul Rashid Dostum, who is accused of committing war crimes against the Taliban in 2001.

The incumbent President is said to have felt he should not have to give reassurances to a foreign official that he would accept the outcome of an election in his own country.

President Obama's administration has taken a deliberately tougher stance with Mr Karzai than that adopted by the White House under George Bush.

Senior figures in Washington have repeatedly made comments that were critical of the alleged corruption and lack of governance in Afghanistan under the President's rule.

Mr Karzai and his officials, on the other hand, are said to be increasingly resentful of what they consider to be the patronising approaches of both the US and British governments.