Hamid Karzai flew into a rage when the US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan raised concerns over alleged election fraud at a meeting in Kabul. Details have emerged of an angry exchange between the country's president and Richard Holbrooke when they met the day after last weeks election. Mr Holbrooke had lunch with Mr Karzai at the presidential palace, and also met with his main rival, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, at the US embassy on August 21, according to diplomatic sources. The three-hour meeting with Dr Abdullah went smoothly, the sources said, but Mr Karzai became angry when the US envoy - dubbed the Bulldozer for his negotiating style in the Balkans - raised concerns about alleged fraud and urged him to accept the results even if he did not win in the first round. Karzai accused the Americans of trying to push the election into a second round, said one of the diplomatic sources. He was furious. The two men are said to have promptly finished their desserts, and shaken hands, before parting company. A US embassy spokeswoman denied reports that there had been a shouting match, and that Mr Holbrooke had stormed out. But the exchange illustrates the growing tension between the United States and Mr Karzai, who swept to power with American support after a US-led invasion toppled the Taleban government in late 2001. Since the last presidential election in 2004, US officials have grown increasingly frustrated with corruption in Mr Karzais government, and with persistent allegations that some of his key allies, inclduing his half-brother, are involved in the drugs trade. They were also angered in the run-up to last weeks poll by Mr Karzais surprise approval of a law that critics say condones marital rape, and his alliances with several notorious warlords, who are also suspected war criminals. They now fear that his allies may have tried to rig last weeks election, undermining the credibility of international efforts to defeat the Taleban and build democracy in Afghanistan. With just over 17 per cent of the results released, Mr Karzai leads Mr Abdullah by 42.3 percent to 33.1 percent, but is still short of the outright majority needed to avoid a run-off after results are finalised next month. Dr Abdullah and other opposition candidates have accused Mr Karzai and his allies of rigging the vote in the south - his main support base - where turnout was severely depleted by Taleban threats and attacks. Mr Karzais supporters have already claimed that he won more than 68 per cent of the national vote - even though he won just 55.4 percent in 2004, and the last opinion polls before last weeks election put him on less than 50 per cent. Michael Semple, a former EU official in Afghanistan who was accused of spying and expelled in 2007, said that the disagreement appeared to have been over Mr Holbrookes suggestion that it was in Afghanistans interests to have a second round run-off. Thats the point that we understand that Ambassador Holbrooke made; however we also understand that President Karzai disagreed with that fervently, he said. And some of his supporters have been deliberately leaking the information about the 68% or 72%, which is why there probably was a battle royale in the presidential palace on the 21st. (Times Online)