Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the Obama administration is ready to assist in any way it can to help Nigeria conduct free and fair elections in January.  Clinton met Thursday with her Nigerian counterpart.

Talks in Washington between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Nigerian Foreign Minister Henry Odein Ajumogobia focused on the tight time-frame for preparations for the country's presidential and parliamentary elections in January.

The need for major reforms became apparent after Nigerian elections in 2007 that were widely criticized by human-rights groups and international observers for alleged vote-rigging and campaign intimidation.

At a press event with her Nigerian counterpart, Clinton said the United States and Britain, among others, are committed to helping Nigeria stage an election that meets world standards.

She said that the success of the electoral process ultimately rests in the hands of Nigerians and that she is optimistic about preparations thus far.

"The appointment of a new election commission, the appointment of a well-respected chair, the steps that he and the commission are taking, the commitment of President [Goodluck] Jonathan to a free, fair election, all of those are very important commitments.  And we are going to stand ready to assist in any way that we can," said Clinton.

Foreign Minister Adjumogobia hailed the appointment in June of prominent academic Attahiru Muhammadu Jega as the new chairman of Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission, calling him one of few figures in the country that no one criticizes.

Clinton opened the brief press appearance with a statement praising the conduct of Kenya's constitutional referendum vote this week.  The Nigerian foreign minister said his country is striving for a vote in January that is similarly well-received.

"That is what we want for ourselves in Nigeria: free and fair elections in which every vote counts," said Adjumogobia.  "And the president has committed to this, and has taken steps to demonstrate that commitment.  We have a new electoral law, the electoral law 2010, that has been passed, that provides a new framework that will support free and fair elections in Nigeria."

Clinton, who visited Nigeria last year, said Undersecretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero will go there later this month for more talks on election preparations and international monitoring.

She also said a U.S.-Nigerian working group on the critical Niger Delta region - part of the U.S.-Nigeria Bi-National Commission created earlier this year - will hold its first meeting in Washington next month.

Clinton said the working group will discuss ways to resolve the grievances of people living in the oil rich, but politically-troubled area, and strengthen U.S.-Nigerian security coordination in the Gulf of Guinea.