President Hamid Karzai accused the West yesterday of trying to ruin Afghanistan's elections, intensifying a showdown with parliament over whether foreigners will oversee a parliamentary vote this year.
Mr Karzai's international reputation took a battering after a UN-backed fraud watchdog threw out a third of the votes cast for him in last year's presidential election. He is now wrangling with parliament and the United Nations over fraud protection measures for a parliamentary vote due in September.
"Foreigners will make excuses, they do not want us to have a parliamentary election," a defiant Mr Karzai told a gathering of election officials. "They want parliament to be weakened and battered, and for me to be an ineffective President.
"You have gone through the kind of elections during which you were not only threatened with terror, you also faced massive interference from foreigners," Mr Karzai told the officials. "Some embassies also tried to bribe the members of the commission."
He singled out Peter Galbraith, the American former deputy of the UN mission in Kabul, sacked after accusing his boss of turning a blind eye to fraud, and French General Philippe Morillon, head of an EU vote monitoring mission.
"There was fraud in the presidential and provincial election, with no doubt there was massive fraud. This wasn't fraud by Afghans but the fraud of foreigners, the fraud of Galbraith, of Morillon and the votes of the Afghan nation were in the control of an embassy," Mr Karzai said.
Last year's election stand-off – which ended when a UN-backed body ordered a second round but Mr Karzai's opponent quit – eroded support in the West for the eight-year-old war. A new election confrontation could further sour public opinion in a decisive year, when Washington is sending an extra 30,000 troops.
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