Incumbent Hamid Karzai defended last month's Afghan presidential election as honest on Wednesday, a day after returns showed him on course to win in a single round but a U.N-backed panel also ordered a partial recount over fraud. The standoff has alarmed Western leaders who have risked their own political capital to send troops on an increasingly unpopular mission to defend a government led by a president who seems eager to accept a potentially dubious election victory. Preliminary election results issued Tuesday gave Karzai more than 54 percent of valid votes tallied, putting him above the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff with his closest rival, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah.