WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama said late Saturday that Libya's first free national election in decades after the ouster of dictator Moamer Kadhafi was "another milestone" the country's transition to democracy.
"On behalf of the American people, I extend my congratulations to the people of Libya for another milestone on their extraordinary transition to democracy," Obama said in a written statement.
"After more than 40 years in which Libya was in the grip of a dictator, today's historic election underscores that the future of Libya is in the hands of the Libyan people," the US president added.
Turnout in the Libyan election was put at 60 per cent by the country's Electoral Commission, according to preliminary data.
In the capital, long queues formed of people keen to elect the General National Congress, which will steer Libya through a transition period.
Some voters sported black, red and green flags - the colors of the revolution that toppled Kadhafi last year.
Libya has not seen national elections since the era of the late king Idris, whom Kadhafi deposed in a bloodless coup in 1969.
Political parties were banned as an act of treason during Kadhafi's iron-fisted rule. Now there are 142 parties fielding candidates.
A total of 80 seats were reserved for party candidates while 120 seats were open to individual candidates. Altogether, 3,707 candidates were standing in 72 districts nationwide.
Obama said the United States was proud of the role it had played in supporting the Libyan revolution we looked forward to "working closely with the new Libya," including the elected Congress.
"We will engage as partners as the Libyan people work to build open and transparent institutions, establish security and the rule of law, advance opportunity, and promote unity and national reconciliation," the US president said.
He acknowledged that "difficult challenges" still lay ahead, but expressed optimism about the future and reaffirmed US readiness to assist Libyans in their efforts.
"As they begin this new chapter, the Libyan people can count on the continued friendship and support of the United States," Obama said