The European Union offered on Monday to send election observers to Pakistan to monitor the nation's first democratic polls since the October 1999 coup that put President Pervez Musharraf into power.
An EU official said the offer was made by EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten during a meeting in Brussels with visiting Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar.
"We think they'll accept the offer" in order to give the elections a higher level of credibility, the official told AFP, adding that Sattar had reacted "positively" to the idea.
Speaking briefly to reporters after talks with EU foreign policy high representative Javier Solana, Sattar did not refer directly to the offer of EU observers.
But he said Pakistan was "benefiting from the cooperation that the European Union has extended to us," and that it was looking to Europe to "intensify its efforts" in the south Asian region.
Over the past five months, the EU has opened its markets wider to Pakistani textile products, while raising development aid to 50 million euros (45 million dollars) a year.
At the same time, European governments have buried their concerns about nuclear proliferation in south Asia, while hoping for a political settlement between Pakistan and India over the disputed region of Kashmir.
Musharraf's government has promised free and fair elections by October, as Pakistan emerges from diplomatic isolation in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
Last week the Commonwealth's ministerial action group recommended that the 54-nation body send election observers as well, though Pakistan would remain suspended until full democracy is restored.
Solana, who called Sattar "a good friend of the EU," praised Pakistan for sticking to the commitments it has made to the international community despite the crisis in neighboring Afghanistan.
"I don't think I would be exaggerating if I say that the role of Pakistan has been absolutely instrumental," he said.