A UN watchdog ordered a recount of suspicious ballots in the Afghan elections yesterday, citing clear and convincing evidence of fraud, even as the authorities declared President Karzai the outright winner. The confusion set the scene for a clash between Afghanistans own Independent Election Commission (IEC) accused of being in the Presidents pocket and the international community, which has been watching the tidal wave of fraud allegations with growing alarm. Daoud Ali Najafi, head of the IEC, said that with 91 per cent of ballots counted, Mr Karzai had won 54 per cent, pushing him past the halfway mark needed to avoid a run-off against Abdullah Abdullah, his closest competitor, who won 28 per cent. But only hours earlier, the Electoral Complaints Commission, a UN-backed body handling allegations of fraud, ordered a recount of votes, saying that it had evidence of serious violations. The IEC announced the partial results anyway, saying that there had been discrepancies between the English and Persian versions in the letter it received from the UN watchdog, and that it would address the fraud charges only once the technical fault was cleared up. The UN body did not specify how many ballots may have been tainted, but the European Unions monitors suggested that the number could exceed 566,000 enough to force Mr Karzai into a run-off. The EUs election monitors said that their own findings confirm that large-scale ballot stuffing took place at polling station level and that despite the legal provisions on fraud detection . . . hundreds of thousands of fraudulent votes were accepted and were including among preliminary official results. The monitors said that after checking figures released by the IEC on September 6, from 18,877 polling stations, there were 2,451 polling stations where more than 90 per cent of the votes were cast for a single candidate. That should have rung alarm bells, but the IEC failed to pick up on them. Another 138,000 votes should be regarded as suspicious, the EU said, after it identified 214 polling stations where the number of votes cast exceeded the limit of likely voters assigned to that location. The accusations broke weeks of silence from the international community. It has had to balance the need to remain impartial in a domestic dispute involving the fraud allegations, and the prospect of having US, British and other Nato troops fighting for a Government that lacks legitimacy. One Western official said there was considerable anxiety that tainted votes might be included in the final tally. We need to maintain calm and support the proper process that is needed to maintain credibility. The US Ambassador to Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, paid a visit to Mr Karzai the night before the latest results were announced and urged him not to declare a victory. The United States and the international community are looking to the Independent Electoral Commission to carry out its legal mandate to count all votes and to exclude all fraudulent votes, a US embassy spokeswoman said. Like the Afghan people, we are taking allegations of fraud in the election process very seriously. Kai Eide, the UN special envoy, issued a statement urging the IEC to redouble efforts to ensure full rigour in their work at every stage in light of the concerns that have arisen over irregularities. Another Western official said: What you are seeing is the international community baring its teeth. He added that with Mr Karzai poised to declare outright victory, it was now crunch time. He added: Fraud is unacceptable to the international community. Mr Karzais victory was not yet assured. Mr Najafi, the IEC head, said that a recount of the tainted ballots could take up to two months, leaving the country in limbo as international and Afghan forces battle a Taleban insurgency that yesterday detonated a suicide car bomb outside a Nato base at Kabul airport. Two civilians were killed in the blast. Four American soldiers were killed in a Taleban ambush near the Pakistan border.