Shortly before today’s huge explosion in Kabul, President Karzai held a news conference to defend last month’s much-criticised election. The Afghan leader said he thought reports of fraud had been exaggerated and that he firmly believed in the integrity of the process.Accusations of widespread irregularities are threatening to undermine the final result. Complete preliminary figures put Karzai on course for a single round victory, with more than 54 percent of the vote. But after allegations spearheaded by his main challenger, the former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, a UN-backed electoral watchdog said it found “clear and convincing evidence of fraud.” It ordered a recount of around 10 percent of polling stations. An EU observer mission says 1.1 million out of as many as 1.5 million “suspicious” votes were for Karzai. The President agreed the complaints process must run its course. But he has played down suggestions that fraud could have taken place on a big enough scale to influence the outcome.