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Somalia president sworn in

Somalia's newly-elected President Abdulkassim Salat Hassan promised to "serve all the Somali people" as he was sworn in Sunday to lead the deeply-divided country, Djibouti television said.

Salat, 58, a former interior minister under the late dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, was elected early Saturday by a transitional parliament sitting in the resort town of Arta, some 20 miles outside Djibouti. A member of the Hawiye clan, he is the country's first president in almost a decade.

The east African country has been ruled by rival warlords since the 1991 overthrow of Mohamed Siad Barre. His election is one of the key stages of a Djibouti-sponsored reconciliation process, begun with the inauguration of the transitional parliament earlier this month.

"I will serve all the Somali people according to my ability," Salat promised, in a high-profile ceremony attended by several foreign leaders including Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and presidents Omar al-Beshir of Sudan, Ali Abdallah Saleh of Yemen and Issaias Afeworki of Eritrea. Three warlords in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Saturday denounced Salat's election and vowed to fight him. Salat promised to talk with regions which had not taken part in the peace and reconciliation process.

"I will respect the territorial integrity of Somalia and I will talk to the regions that are currently in peace but did not join the Somali peace initiative," he said. Two self-declared republics inside Somalia, Somaliland in the northwest and Puntland in the northeast refused to take part in the peace talks, with the Somaliland parliament saying it was "treasonable" to attend the conference.

France was represented at the ceremony by Cooperation Minister Charles Josselin, Italy by foreign ministry official Maurizio Melani and Egypt and Kenya by their deputy foreign ministers.

China and the United States sent ambassadors. Salat, who between 1973 and 1990 was successively minister of industry, trade, labor, information and the interior, is now expected to name a new government.

The government will first sit in the Somali town of Baidoa, until security improves in Mogadishu, which is divided up between rival militia groups.


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