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Fraud Claims Grow as Karzai Nears Victory Threshold

Afghan election officials have announced the first annulment of votes from last month's elections, as partial results show President Hamid Karzai inching toward the simple majority of votes needed to avoid a run-off.

Independent Election Commission official Daoud Ali Najafi said Sunday officials canceled the votes from 447 polling stations across the country due to allegations of widespread fraud. He did not say how many votes had been affected by the decision.

Meanwhile, election results released Sunday show that Mr. Karzai has 48.6 percent of the vote, while his main challenger Abdullah Abdullah has 31.7 percent. The count is based on returns from about 75 percent of the country's polling sites.

Final results are expected later this month after officials investigate the fraud allegations.

Afghanistan's Electoral Complaints Commission has received more than 2,000 allegations of fraud or abuse from the August 20 presidential election. It says that some of the complaints, if true, would affect the final result.

On Saturday, Mr. Abdullah called the alleged vote-rigging "state-engineered" fraud and urged the international community to intervene. He said that if Afghanistan's next leader is chosen through a fraudulent vote, it could fuel instability.

Afghanistan's election commission says it stands by the partial results it has released on its Web site.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.