Official election results in Lebanon confirm that the Western-backed "March 14" coalition has won Sunday's parliamentary poll.
Lebanese Interior Minister Ziad Baroud announced Monday that the ruling March 14 group won 71 of the 128 seats in parliament. Its chief rival, the Syrian- and Iranian-backed alliance led by Hezbollah, won 57 seats.
Later Monday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah conceded defeat and congratulated his rivals on their victory.
In an address broadcast on Hezbollah's TV station (al-Manar), Nasrallah said he accepts the results of the poll "in the spirit of democracy and sportsmanship."
Election observers from the European Union issued a preliminary statement Monday praising the poll, which it said was held in an "impartial and generally efficient and transparent manner."
A U.N. statement said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hopes the process of forming a government will begin quickly and be conducted peacefully.
U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement congratulating Lebanon on the peaceful election. He said he hopes "the next government will continue along the path towards building a sovereign, independent and stable Lebanon."
The majority leader in Lebanon's parliament, Saad al-Hariri, declared victory Sunday, calling it a big day for democracy in Lebanon.
Hezbollah and its allies had hoped to reverse the Western-backed coalition's small majority in the outgoing parliament.
Having maintained its majority, the winning coalition will still have to form a government that meets the country's requirements for representation of all major sects.
Hariri has said he will invite Hezbollah to form a national unity government, but will not give the group enough Cabinet posts to give it the veto power it holds in the current government.
Nasrallah said the poll proves that Lebanon can hold an election even if Hezbollah refuses to give up its weapons.
Interior Minister Baroud said voter turnout in Sunday's election was at least 52 percent, exceeding the 45 percent figure for the last parliamentary election in 2005.