The Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid on Tuesday said Musharraf would stay on because Pakistan needed his leadership.

"He will seek another term," Rashid said. "He will stay as president beyond 2007 because Pakistan needs his leadership."

The minister, however, declined to comment on whether Musharraf, who is also the army chief, would retain the dual position when he seeks re-election.

It was generally considered that Musharraf would remain at the helm after the general elections in 2007, but he had not until now publicly declared his intentions.

Rashid also said the parties of former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif - who are both living in exile and have been barred by Musharraf from the electoral arena - would back Musharraf.

"All of them are in direct contact with him," Rashid said. "Musharraf will win the vote."

Musharraf, who grabbed power in a coup in October 1999, appointed himself president in June 2001. He won a heavily criticised referendum in April 2002, followed by a parliamentary vote of confidence a year later.