Washington reacted with alarm yesterday to President Hamid Karzais claim that the UN was responsible for the fraud that tarnished last years Afghan elections. The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, spoke with Mr Karzai by telephone about the remarks, which the White House called "genuinely troubling". The US ambassador to Kabul had earlier visited Mr Karzai to seek clarification. Less than a week after a flying visit from President Obama intended to drive home Washingtons anti-corruption message, Mr Karzai gave a speech in Kabul in which he admitted that the elections had been marked by "vast fraud" but said it had been perpetrated by the UN to tarnish him. "They wanted to have a puppet government. They wanted a servant government," he said. "They also want the parliament to be like me, battered and wounded. They want me to be an illegitimate president." Mr Karzais spokesman yesterday said his conversation with Mrs Clinton had been "cordial" and the speech "misunderstood". "Both sides recommitted themselves to the partnership between the two countries," he said. Philip Crowley, the State Department spokesman, said: "We are troubled by the comments that he made. From our standpoint, we are investing substantial resources to defeat al-Qaeda... Suggestions that somehow the international community was responsible for irregularities in the recent election are preposterous." Mr Karzais outburst left his relationship with the US in a more tense and fragile condition than at any point since he was forced to accept a recount to determine the elections result, but it does not diminish his dependence on US financial aid or the American military to support a regime increasingly seen as an obstacle to progress against the Taleban rather than a trustworthy partner. Bill Burton, the deputy White House press secretary, said Mr Obama had "made clear that there are issues with governance in that country that could certainly be improved." He said some progress had been made but added: "Theres obviously a lot more work to do." (The Times)