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Afghan leader blasts his allies

KABUL, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai on Thursday lashed out at American and European officials, saying they bore responsibility for fraud in last summer's election — fraud his own supporters were accused of engineering.

Karzai's angry rhetoric marked a sharp escalation of tension over parliamentary elections that are due to take place this year. The September vote is seen as yet another test of Afghanistan's struggling democracy, and for the U.S.-dominated military coalition that supports the Afghan government.

International officials have warned that the September balloting must meet far more stringent standards of fairness than the presidential balloting last August in which Karzai's camp was alleged to have carried out massive vote-rigging.

Karzai was eventually declared the winner and inaugurated to a second five-year term, but only after a bruising battle over the outcome. A second round of voting was averted when his principal opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, dropped out of the race.

The Afghan leader's relations with the West deteriorated markedly after the botched election, and have yet to recover.

Karzai's latest outburst, at a meeting of election officials, came four days after President Obama came to Kabul with a dual-edged message: a coveted invitation for Karzai to visit the White House next month, coupled with a stern call to rein in rampant corruption.

In his remarks Thursday, Karzai singled out the then-No. 2 U.N. official in Afghanistan, American Peter Galbraith, and the French Gen. Philippe Morillon, who chaired a European Union monitoring body, as having borne responsibility for the botched presidential election.

"Foreigners... do not want us to have a parliamentary election," Karzai told the election gathering, citing "massive interference" from the international community in the August vote.

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