Libyan's election officials expect to announce results of the country's first free national election in 60 years on Monday night, with a liberal coalition claiming an early lead.

Ballots were still being collected from various cities including Misrata late yesterday to be shipped to Tripoli to count, causing delays after Saturday's

Ballots were still being collected from various cities including Misrata late yesterday to be shipped to Tripoli to count, causing delays after Saturday's historic vote.

The election commission said there was a 60 per cent turnout among the 2.8m registered voters."The number of voters to take part in the election procedure until polling stations were closed yesterday is around 1.7 million voters," Nouri al-Abar, the head of national election commission said.

A coalition of 65 liberal parties led by Mahmoud Jibril, the war-time rebel prime minister, claimed an early lead but the national election commission said that was premature given the limited number of returns from polling stations.

The National Forces Alliance achieved good results in Tripoli and Benghazi, said Mohammed Sawan, head of the Justice and Construction party. The majority of Libya's registered voters were in the capital, which lies in the west of the oil-rich desert country, and in the eastern city of Benghazi.

"It is a tight race for us in the south," said Mr Sawan, a former political prisoner and member of Libya's Muslim Brotherhood.

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Liberal coalition

Television channel Al-Assima, citing unofficial reports, said the coalition was well ahead Tripoli with 80 per cent in the district of Tripoli Centre, and 90 per cent in the impoverished district of Abu Slim. Preliminary figures showed the coalition at 70 per cent in Benghazi and 80 per cent in Al-Bayda, hometown of Libya's interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil.

The vast majority of election stations operated without incident on Saturday as some 2.8m Libyans cast their first ballots in 60 years in free national elections. Gaddafi had banned as an act of treason.

Some polling stations were attacked, however, and ballots were burned. A helicopter carrying Libyan election material was shot at by gunmen at Benghazi's airport. The shooting killed one and wounded two others, Bloomberg reported.

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, heading the team of 21 European Union observers, said large numbers of Libyans voted "peacefully and free of fear and intimidation, despite some disturbances in the east and some tensions in the south."