WASHINGTON, Oct 6: The White House on Saturday gave cautious congratulations to Pakistan on holding the presidential election, but withheld comment on reports that President Pervez Musharraf had registered a sweeping win.

Two White House officials, spokesman Scott Stanzel and Gordon Johndroe of the National Security Council, gave the same response.

“Pakistan is an important partner and ally to the United States and we congratulate them for today’s election,” they said, apparently reading from a prepared text.

Mr Johndroe also added that Washington looked forward to “working with all of Pakistan’s leaders” on issues, including counterterrorism.

The State Department was less effusive. “We are awaiting the Supreme Court decision,” said spokeswoman Nicole Thompson.

“We will refrain from commenting until the verdict is announced.”

President Musharraf’s victory has placed Washington in an awkward position. While it is obvious that the United States wants Gen Musharraf to continue as president for another term, and played a key role in arranging a deal between him and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, it is not willing to take a public position on this issue, at least not until the Supreme Court’s verdict is announced.

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