Election observers in Afghanistan have described Thursday’s presidential vote as generally fair but not free because of widespread fraud and voter intimidation in certain areas.The EU has urged officials to treat claims with impartiality. President Hamid Karzai says he is leading the count – a claim also made by his main challenger and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah who says he is heading for an outright majority to avoid a run-off in October. Although the EU says it is too early to make a definitive judgement about the vote, the US President is pleased with how it passed off. Barack Obama said: “This was an important step forward in the Afghan people’s effort to take control of their own future, even as violent extremists are trying to stand in their way.” The claims made by Karzai’s camp and Abdullah are based on unofficial observations by thousands of campaign workers at the polling stations. Preliminary official results are due on September 3, with the final result set to be released two weeks later. Much is likely to depend on turnout in Pashtun areas in the south where the president draws his strongest support but where voters faced the brunt of Taliban attacks and intimidation.