U.N. Representative To Afghanistan Recalled

By: (CNN)
By: (CNN)

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon abruptly recalled a special representative to Afghanistan on Wednesday, immediately relieving Peter Galbraith of his duties.

No reason was given.

"The secretary-general recognizes Mr. Galbraith's important contributions to the work of the mission and throughout his distinguished career as an international civil servant," a United Nations spokesman said. "The secretary-general has made this decision in the best interest of the mission."

Galbraith's title was deputy special representative of the secretary-general for UNAMA, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

The U.N. spokesman said Ban reaffirmed his full support for his special representative, Kai Eide. Randolph reported to Eide.

Published news accounts indicate Galbraith had fallen out of favor with Ban over the disputed Afghan elections in August.

Galbraith is said to have angered Afghan President Hamid Karzai by calling for a complete recount after widespread allegations of election fraud.

Galbraith and Eide, the top U.N. official in the nation, are reported to have disagreed vehemently over the issue. Galbraith, an American, left Afghanistan earlier this month after the squabble with Eide.

European Union observers believe about 1.5 million votes -- about 25 percent of the ballots cast -- could be fraudulent, the U.N. said. Afghan election officials already have discarded more than 200,000 ballots believed to be tainted. About 1.1 million votes cast for Karzai are considered suspicious.

Ban declined to comment Tuesday when asked at a news conference whether he planned to keep Galbraith in the post.

"I think I don't need to answer for that question for anything which may happen in the future," the secretary-general said. "We will have to assess the situation."

Eide, a Norwegian, said Tuesday he expects the election to be determined soon and then certified. Karzai is significantly ahead in the multi-candidate balloting, with 54 percent of the vote.

"This is decision time in Afghanistan and for Afghanistan," Eide said. "A number of critical decisions will be made over the next weeks. Together, they will determine the prospects for success in ending a conflict that has become more intense over the last months."

Galbraith's dismissal comes as President Barack Obama determines what strategy to employ in the 8-year-old Afghan war. Obama was scheduled to meet Wednesday with senior U.S. military and diplomatic officials to discuss whether to increase troop levels in the nation.

The United States has 65,000 troops in Afghanistan and the top U.S. commander there, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, is reported to have asked for an additional 30,000 to 40,000.

Galbraith, 58, is a former U.S. ambassador of Croatia and long-time Senate aide on the Foreign Relations Committee. He is the son of noted Canadian-American economist John Kenneth Galbraith.

The-CNN-Wire/Atlanta
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