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Sarkozy Sworn In As President of France

16 May 2007

Nicolas Sarkozy has been sworn in as the new president of France. Mr. Sarkozy was elected with a clear majority in the final round of voting 10 days ago. This morning, he took over from Jacques Chirac, who ended 12 years in office. For VOA, Anita Elash reports from Paris.

The French are good at pomp and circumstance, and today's ceremony was true to form. Jacques Chirac welcomed Nicolas Sarkozy to the presidential palace, where they met privately for about 30 minutes. Then Mr. Sarkozy escorted Mr. Chirac out the front door, and reviewed the army for the first time as musicians played the French national anthem.

But it was also a much more relaxed ceremony than usual. Mr. Sarkozy was there with his five children, including nine-year-old Louis, who closely examined the Legion of Honor medal presented to his father.

Mr. Sarkozy, a conservative with a tough image, is often considered a divisive figure. But in his first speech as president, he said he wanted to unify the country.

"I say from the bottom of my heart, that I am ready to work with all those who want to serve France," he said. "I will not ask them to give up their convictions, to betray their friends, or to forget their history. It is up to them to decide, with the conscience of free men, how they will serve France."

Mr. Sarkozy will announce his new Cabinet tomorrow, and it is expected he will continue to send the message that he wants to work with all French people.

Newspaper reports say he will appoint Bernard Kouchner, a long-time member of the Socialist party and the founder of the humanitarian group Medecins Sans Frontieres, as his foreign minister. He is also expected to name Francois Fillon, who is known as a moderate, as his prime minister.

Immediately after today's ceremonies, Mr. Sarkozy was to make his first trip abroad as president, to Germany to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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