Lebanese ruling coalition claims poll victory
The leader of Lebanon's governing pro-Western coalition has claimed victory over a Hezbollah-led bloc in a tight parliamentary election.
Saad Hariri said his 14 March alliance would retain its majority in the 128-member parliament.
A politician close to the Hezbollah-led bloc, supported by Syria and Iran, admitted defeat in Sunday's elections, Reuters news agency reported.
Official results are due later on Monday. Turnout was put at about 52%.
"Congratulations to you, congratulations to freedom, congratulations to democracy," Mr Hariri told a crowd of his cheering supporters in the capital Beirut.
"There is no winner and loser in these elections, the only winner is democracy and Lebanon," he added.
Mr Hariri's coalition was expected to win 70 seats in the new assembly, while the Hezbollah alliance would get 58 seats, Mr Hariri's Future TV station predicted.
If the forecast is confirmed, Mr Hariri's bloc would increase its majority in the parliament.
The US, who had feared a possible Hezbollah-led bloc's victory, will now be heaving a sign of relief, the BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut says.
An unnamed senior politician close to the Hezbollah-led bloc told Reuters: "We have lost the election. We accept the result as the will of the people."
Interior Minister Ziad Baroud said turnout had exceeded that of the 2005 election and was "unheard of in the history of Lebanese elections".
Some three million people were eligible to cast ballots.
Under Lebanon's power-sharing political system, seats in the 128-member parliament are split equally between Christians and Muslims, with further sub-divisions for various sects.
Analysts said earlier that the result could depend on which Christian politicians were elected in a few key constituencies.
The Christian vote was said to be split evenly between the two camps.
Hezbollah fielded only 11 candidates, though it is a powerful member of the broader opposition coalition, which includes the maverick Christian leader Michel Aoun, and the mainstream Shia movement Amal.
The current majority in parliament was swept to power in 2005, following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in a car bombing in Beirut.
The bombing forced Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon after a 29-year presence amid accusations of Syrian involvement in the attack.
The government in Damascus has strongly denied the claims.