Washington (AFP) - President Barack Obama hailed Libya's general election as a "milestone" Thursday and said the United States would stand by the war-scarred nation on its transition to democracy.
Libyan authorities have expressed hope that Wednesday's election, the results of which were still being tallied, will pave a way out of the turmoil that has gripped the country since the 2011 ouster of dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
"I congratulate the Libyan people on the conclusion of the elections for a new Council of Representatives, a milestone in their courageous efforts to transition from four decades of dictatorship toward a full democracy," Obama said in a statement.
But he stressed the vote was "just one step" in Libya's democratic shift.
"Libya's new government must now focus on building consensus to address the challenges of establishing security, providing effective public services, and ensuring an inclusive political process," Obama added.
The poll was overshadowed by deadly violence in the second city Benghazi, including the killing of a leading women's rights activist.
Seven soldiers deployed to provide polling day security in Benghazi were also killed, and 53 wounded, in what security officials said was an attack on their convoy by Islamist militia.
"The United States calls on all parties to renounce violence and resolve differences through political dialogue and participation in the democratic process," Obama said.
"We remain committed to supporting the Libyan people as they work to lay the foundations of a democratic society during this challenging yet historic time."
National Security Advisor Susan Rice condemned "yesterday's brutal and senseless murder of human rights and civil society activist Salwa Bugaighis," whom she said she met in late 2011, shortly after Kadhafi's ouster.
"We join the Libyan people in mourning the loss of Salwa Bugaighis and call on all Libyans to reject violent extremists seeking to silence their opponents and derail the aspirations of the Libyan people," Rice said.