PARIS (AFP) - Top envoys for Afghanistan gathered in Paris on Wednesday to chart a way forward after claims of massive fraud cast a pall over the presidential election and threatened to set back peace efforts. US special representative Richard Holbrooke joined counterparts from 26 countries and organisations for talks on Afghanistans future after the August 20 vote was mired in allegations of ballot-stuffing and voter intimidation. Afghanistans election commission is investigating more than 2,500 complaints of irregularities, while preliminary results of the vote are expected to be announced by Monday. With ballots from nearly half the polling stations announced, President Hamid Karzai was leading his main rival Abdullah Abdullah, but he was still short of the majority needed to avoid a run-off. The meeting comes two days after the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan presented a gloomy assessment of the war to date calling for a shift in strategy in the nearly eight-year campaign to defeat the Taliban. Already, 2009 has been a record-breaking year for the number of foreign soldiers killed in Afghanistan and questions are being asked over the fate of billions of dollars in international aid poured into the country. Washingtons relations with Karzai have grown increasingly strained while public opinion in the US and Europe has turned cold over what is seen as an ill-defined Afghan campaign. Ahead of the meeting, Holbrooke took pains to insist that Washington was neutral in the campaign and that allegations of ballot fraud would be addressed. The United States totally respects the process. We dont have a candidate, Holbrooke told RFI radio. The United States and the international community will work with whoever is elected president of Afghanistan and if President Karzai is re-elected, thats fine. I know him well and I admire his achievements, Holbrooke said. And of course, we are prepared to work with him as we are with other candidates if that is the result of the election. The Afghan vote could lead to a runoff, amid reports that Holbrooke had pushed Karzai to agree to a second round of voting against ex-foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah during a recent tense meeting. Holbrooke said the United States did not take a position in favour of a runoff. We took a position in favour of the process. We took a position in favour of the Afghan people themselves. Some observers believe a runoff would give the election greater legitimacy, defuse the threat of post-election violence and make it easier for the West to line up behind the elected president. The quandary over the tainted elections comes as President Barack Obama is making a push for new thinking on Afghanistan, which is now at the centre of the US administrations foreign policy. General Stanley McChrystal, who assumed command of NATO and US forces in June, urged in his review an expansion of Afghan security forces and a revamped counter-insurgency strategy to reverse serious setbacks. There are about 100,000 foreign troops - around two thirds of them American - deployed in Afghanistan on a mission to fight the insurgency, which has reached its deadliest level since the 2001 US-led invasion. Obama ordered an extra 21,000 troops to Afghanistan earlier this year. Also taking part in the talks were British envoy Sherard Cowper-Coles, Germanys Bernd Muetzelburg, Thierry Mariani from France and United Nations special envoy for Afghanistan Kai Eide. A news conference was scheduled for 4:00 pm (1400 GMT).