Azeem Chaudhry, from Musharaff's Pakistan Muslim League-Q party, said: "As far as the ruling party is concerned, we have finalised our strategy to elect the president for another five-year term ... we have enough votes to easily elect President Musharraf for another term."

Officials said a delegation from the ruling party, headed by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, its leader, met with Musharraf on Saturday to assure him that they would elect him for another term.

Sliding popularity

Musharraf has seen his popularity slide this year after he tried to remove the supreme court's popular chief judge and security forces stormed the Red Mosque compound in Islamabad.

"As far as the elections for the president are concerned, I think it will be much wiser for General Musharraf ... 
to defer his election to
the next assembly"


Benazir Bhutto, former Pakistani prime minister
But the ruling coalition says it has enough support to get the simple majority needed to re-elect Musharraf, who also holds the post of army chief.

The support of Bhutto's party would help achieve the two-thirds majority needed for constitutional amendments that could head off of legal challenges to his re-election bid.

Talks on a deal between the returning Bhutto and Musharraf's aides have, however, stalled and Chaudhry said on Saturday that the former prime minister had demanded too much from the government in return for supporting the president.

Her demands included having the constitution amended so that she could become prime minister for a third term if her party wins parliamentary elections, due by January 2008, Chaudry said.

"If we do it, it will send a signal that Benazir Bhutto is the future prime minister, and in this situation who will vote for us?"

Bhutto appeal

Bhutto has said she does not want Musharraf to seek a presidential vote until after parliamentary elections which are due to be held by the end of January 2008.

Speaking to Pakistan's Dawn news channel on Saturday, she said: "As far as the elections for the president are concerned, I think it will be much wiser for General Musharraf, were he to ask my opinion, to defer his election to the next assembly."

But attempts for the two parties to reach a deal have divided the ruling party, one of the ruling party officials, speaking anonymously, said.

He said that there were concerns that their own electoral chances could suffer if Musharraf mades too many concessions to Bhutto.