<!-- IMAGE -->

The top United Nations official in Afghanistan is acknowledging that the controversial presidential election in August suffered from significant fraud.

Kai Eide spoke to reporters in Kabul, days after his former deputy, Peter Galbraith, publicly accused him of suppressing evidence of widespread fraud in the August 20 vote.

Eide addressed some of Galbraith's allegations Sunday.  He said although Galbraith had warned that operating polls in unsafe areas increased the likelihood of voter fraud, closing them would have disenfranchised many Afghans.

The U.N. mission chief said that although fraud was widespread, officials are still working to determine the extent.  He refused to give more specifics about problems with the vote because he said he did not want to influence the recount process.

Eide appeared at a news conference with ambassadors from the United States, France and Britain, in an apparent show of international support. 

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon fired Galbraith a week and a-half ago after he publicly criticized his boss over how to deal with the fraud evidence.

Galbraith has said data gathered by U.N. workers show that most of the fraud benefited incumbent President Hamid Karzai. Galbraith accused Eide of favoritism toward Karzai because he would not release the data.

Opponents of Mr. Karzai have seized on the allegations as evidence of serious problems with the vote and with Mr. Karzai's leadership.

Afghan officials are still examining some of the suspicious ballots as they try to determine the election's overall winner.  European monitors have said that as much as 30 percent of the vote could be fraudulent.

Results could be announced in the coming days.