KABUL (AFP) - The UNs special representative to Afghanistan acknowledged Sunday for the first time that the countrys presidential election had been tainted by significant and widespread fraud. Kai Eide called a media conference to counter allegations by his sacked deputy, Peter Galbraith, that he had concealed evidence of vote fraud. Eide said the UN supported vote fraud investigations which are under way and due to be completed, and a final result announced, in days. The elections, held on August 20, have been overshadowed by the fraud allegations, mostly aimed at President Hamid Karzai. Karzai leads preliminary results with about 55pc of the vote, against his nearest rival Abdullah Abdullah, who is on 28pc. It is true that in a number of polling stations in the south and the southeast there was significant fraud, Eide said. The extent of that fraud is now being determined, he said, referring to investigations by the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) and an audit of suspicious ballot boxes by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) last week. It has been claimed that there was 30pc fraud. There is no way to know at this stage what the level of fraud is. No one knows. I can only say there was widespread fraud, he said. Eide called the media conference to answer accusations by Galbraith - who was dismissed last month after a row with his boss over the fraud issue - that he tried to conceal information about the extent of the fraud. He was flanked by the ambassadors to Kabul from the United States, Britain and France, with the German ambassador, the European Unions special representative to Afghanistan, and a NATO representative also in attendance. None of the ambassadors made any comment, and reporters were not permitted to ask them questions. The EU presidency, currently held by Sweden, issued a statement saying the EU stands firmly behind Eide. Visibly angry, Eide said: Some of these allegations were based on private conversation whilst he (Galbraith) was a guest in my house. My view is that private conversations around a dinner table in my house remain just that, private, he said. Galbraith was sacked by UN chief Ban Ki-Moon and immediately went on the offensive, saying the decision sent a terrible signal about the commitment of the UN to a fraud-free election. Differences between the two men began before the poll when Galbraith wanted to eliminate ghost polling centres that posed a risk of fraud as they were too insecure to open on election day. When fraud evidence became very extensive, he said - citing high vote numbers from regions where turnout was known to be low - Eide would not allow the information to be disseminated even to ambassadors based in Kabul. Galbraith also said that 30pc of Karzais votes were fraudulent, echoing findings by EU election monitors that about 1.5 million votes in total - and 1.1 million for Karzai - were suspicious. Eide said the UN mandate in Afghanistan is to support the process, not influence the outcome. Abdullah, who has been loudest in accusing Karzai of ballot-stuffing, separately told AFP that he was convinced about the transparency of the IEC audit and ECC investigation. But he said he believed the investigations would result in a run-off between him and Karzai.