Officials in Iran have begun counting the votes cast in Friday's parliamentary elections, which are expected to keep power in the hands of the country's conservative faction.

Authorities reported a large turnout late in the day, and polling places were held open hours beyond the scheduled closing time.

Voters cast ballots for 4,500 candidates competing for 290 seats in the parliament the Majlis.

The election was mainly between two rival conservative groups. One is more closely linked to hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the other wants Iran to take a more practical approach to dealing with the West on its controversial nuclear program.

Iran's Guardian Council, a religious oversight group, disqualified 1,700 candidates, many of them reformists and opponents of Mr. Ahmadinejad. The Council said the rejected candidates did not display enough loyalty to Iran's Islamic system.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department said results from the elections were "cooked" because voters were not able to cast ballots for a full range of candidates.

Key issues before the electorate included Iran's high inflation and unemployment, and how President Ahmadinejad deals with the West.

Iran's Supreme National Security Council decreed that subjects such as Iran's nuclear program were off limits for public discussion, so many issues were barely mentioned during campaigning. Instead, local or domestic matters, such as pollution, were the focus in many districts.

Early results could begin coming in Saturday, but officials say it could be several days before the final vote totals are announced.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.