American Peter Galbraith, who had differed with Kai Eide, the Norwegian head of the mission on how to deal with fraud complaints in the Aug. 20 elections, abruptly returned to New York.
The development came as the U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission Tuesday ordered the recount of votes from 2,500 of the 26,300 polling stations after a fraud audit. Some reports said Galbraith had been insisting on a much higher vote recount than his boss.
"Kai and I have had different views as to how to proceed, but we remain friends and we agree on almost everything else," Galbraith told The New York Times in a telephone interview. "In light of this disagreement, I suggested this would be a good time for me to be away on mission, and he agreed."
Galbraith also told the newspaper: "This election should be decided mathematically by an honest count of votes, cast by voters, and not politically."
The report quoted other U.N. officials as saying Eide is also committed to preventing electoral fraud. They also said Galbraith is expected to return at the end of the month.
"We will press for an investigation of all fraud allegations. It is important that the elected president is recognized and respected by the entire population of Afghanistan," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after meeting with other European foreign ministers in Brussels, the British daily newspaper The Guardian reported.