Senior US officials have offered broad support for Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, following meetings with the military leader near Islamabad.
US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte saidon Saturday that he and General Musharraf discussed a long term-strategic partnership with Pakistan. Negroponte also noted the importance of Pakistan as a military ally in the region.
Negroponte was joined by Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher. The chief of the US Central Command, Admiral William Fallon who, met separately with the president, who also heads Pakistan's military.
Negroponte took a permissive stance on the issue of General Musharraf's dual roles as president and military leader. He said it was up to Mr. Musharraf to decide whether to maintain his military role if he wins an upcoming presidential election.
On Friday, Boucher urged General Musharraf to ensure fair, transparent elections later this year.
Boucher told Pakistani television it is time for the country to return to civilian rule, but he said free elections are more important than how General Musharraf deals with the issue of his dual roles.
President Musharraf is expected to try to retain both the presidency and leadership of the army when he runs in the election.
Pakistan is a close ally in the US-led fight against terrorism.