The US expected "some fraud" in Pakistan's upcoming polls but was doing everything it can to ensure as fair an election as possible, a top Bush administration official has said.
"On a scale from terrible to great, it'll be somewhere in the middle," Richard Boucher, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, said in response to a query on the February 18 polls during a Congressional hearing.
"We don't necessarily accept a certain level of fraud but if history is any guide and reports are any guide, we should expect some," he said, adding that Washington will consider the views of political parties, observers and media to judge whether the vote meets the required standards.
Boucher's comments came close on the heels of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf emphatically ruling out any rigging and pledging to hold free and fair polls in his talks with European leaders during his four-nation tour.
While the US has been aggressively pushing for a "thorough and robust" investigation into the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto and will be "very, very closely" watching the ongoing probe, Boucher said it did not find it a fit case for a UN investigation as was ordered into the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
"We are doing everything we can to try to ensure as fair an election as possible... We're also supporting things on election day, like fielding observers, strong election observer missions...We're pushing very hard for transparency in counting so that they publish results at the lowest polling station level... To make sure numbers don't get added along the way as the totals get made," he said.