WASHINGTON - Leaders in Western countries and neighbours Iran and Afghanistan congratulated Pakistan's new president Asif Ali Zardari upon his election Saturday. The White House on Saturday congratulated PPP leader Asif Zardari on his election as president, saying President George W Bush looks forward to working with the Pakistani leadership in combating terrorism and ensuring the country's economic development. "The United States congratulates Asif Zardari on his election as President," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in a statement, which was issued within hours of the Pakistani leader's election. "President Bush looks forward to working with him, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and the government of Pakistan on issues important to both countries, including counterterrorism and making sure Pakistan has a stable and secure economy," he said. Meanwhile, welcoming Zardari's election as head of the state, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed the confidence in the United States and Pakistan having a good way forward and acknowledged Zardari's firm commitment to fighting terrorism. "Obviously the civilian government of Pakistan is something we have welcomed after the free and fair election and now with a new president I think we have a good way forward," she said during a visit in Algier, where she is on a visit. "I was impressed by some of the things that he said about the challenges that Pakistan faces, about the centrality of fighting terrorism, and about the fact that the terrorism fight is Pakistan's fight and also his very strong words of friendship and alliance with the United States," she said. The top US diplomat told reporters she looked forward to working with the new Pakistani president. The agencies add: Britain pledged to work closely with Zardari to promote stability and fight the "shared threat of violent extremism" in the country, a key ally of the West. In a statement hours after lawmakers voted Zardari into office, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he looked "forward to working closely with president Zardari to further deepen our partnership with Pakistan." "We want to work with the government to support measures that promote stability, democracy and the rule of law and strengthen the democratic transition," Miliband added. "We believe that Pakistan's people are best served by a democratic government, and that strong democratic institutions are the key to delivering long-term stability, good governance and prosperity." He went on: "The United Kingdom stands ready to assist the government in combating the shared threat of violent extremism and meeting the economic challenges they face. "And we remain strongly committed to our partnership with the Pakistani people, notably through our aid programme." Zardari - who takes office nine months after the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto - becomes the 14th president in Pakistan's history. He was the favourite in a three-way race after Pervez Musharraf's nearly nine years at the helm in Pakistan - the world's only nuclear-armed Islamic state and frontline "war on terror" ally, neighbouring Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he hoped Zaradi's election would herald an upturn in relations. "Hamid Karzai, besides congratulating the Pakistan's People's Party over their victory in the election, wished success for Asif Ali Zardari," a statement from the Afghan leader's office said. Karzai is said to have had a good relationship with Benazir Bhutto who headed the PPP. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hoped bilateral ties will expand. "I would like to extend my sincerest congratulations for your deserving election as president of the Islamic republic of Pakistan to you, your government and nation," he said in a statement quoted by the IRNA news agency. "Voicing complete readiness of the Islamic republic of Iran to expand cooperation with Pakistan in all fields, I hope we witness the expansion and strengthening of good relations between the two countries." From Brussels, the European Union urged Pakistan's new leader to help ease security concerns in the region. France, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, called for "an easing of tensions in the region and encourages the Pakistani authorities to make a decisive contribution to regional stability." The French EU presidency "encourages in particular Pakistan in its fight against terrorism and assures the new president that it will continue to support him on that path," a statement said. European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said: "I trust that under your presidency the government will implement appropriate policies to meet the important economic and security challenges the country is currently facing." He said the commission would work with Pakistan to help meet the challenges.