The U.S. State Department congratulated Hamid Karzai on his election Thursday as president of Afghanistan's transitional government and says it looks forward to working with him in his new capacity.

Mr. Karzai had forged close ties with the Bush administration as head of the post-Taliban interim government in Kabul, and his anticipated election as the transitional chief drew a warm welcome from the State Department.

Spokesman Phillip Reeker extended congratulations to Mr. Karzai and all those taking part in the country's grand assembly, the Loya Jirga.

"We've had excellent working relations with chairman Karzai and the interim authority, and we would expect to continue that close cooperation as the entire international community works with Afghanistan's own indigenous authorities to help reconstruct and rebuild the institutions that are so important for the future of the Afghan people," he said.

Mr. Reeker said the Loya Jirga has featured "lively" debate and discussion in the Afghan tradition and said the assembly, which still must choose a cabinet and decide on a new governmental structure marks an important step in the reconstruction of the country and re-establishment of self-government.