<!-- IMAGE -->
A major U.S. newspaper says confidential U.N. data on Afghanistan's disputed presidential election show the official vote count in some provinces exceeded the estimated number of voters by more than 100,000.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that a U.N. spreadsheet kept secret by the U.N. chief envoy in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, showed widespread discrepancies between estimated turnout and the final vote tally.
These discrepancies were especially prevalent in the volatile southern and eastern provinces, where Afghan President Hamid Karzai won with large margins. For example, the Independent Election Commission recorded about 135,000 votes from southern Helmand province, but the U.N. estimated that only 5,000 to 38,000 people there voted.
A U.N. spokesman in Kabul contacted by VOA Wednesday did not dispute the authenticity of the data, but said it is unsubstantiated raw data and should be treated accordingly.
The U.N. data from the August 20 election also indicates fraud by followers of candidate Abdullah Abdullah but on a much smaller scale.
Independent monitors have said one third of all ballots are suspicious.
<!-- IMAGE -->
Peter Galbraith, the top U.S. official with the United Nations mission to Afghanistan who was removed from his post last month, said Sunday he was repeatedly ordered not to pursue fraud reports.
Galbraith said U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon removed him not over a disagreement about how to handle reports of fraud, but over whether the U.N. should publicly address it.
He said he learned in July that at least 1,500 of the nearly 7,000 polling centers were located in places so insecure that Afghan election officials and security forces had never even visited them.
Galbraith added that these sites produced hundreds of thousands of phony votes for Mr. Karzai, who appointed all seven members of the ballot-counting Independent Election Commission.
United Nations officials in New York said Wednesday that Galbraith was fired from the U.N. mission because of an "accumulation of circumstances" that showed he was not the right person for the job.
Assistance Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet said those included Galbraith's proposal to address election fraud by annulling the elections and setting up a transitional government. Mulet said such an action would be "completely out of bounds" with the United Nations mandate in Afghanistan.
Afghan election officials say workers are recounting some of the ballots from the presidential election and expect to formally declare a winner by late next week.
Unofficial tallies indicate Mr. Karzai leads with about 54 percent of the vote. If his lead dips below 50 percent, he could face top challenger Abdullah Abdullah in a runoff.