Ex-military chief sworn in as Egypt's president

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 8, 2014 at 3:00 pm •  Published: June 8, 2014
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CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's former military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, winner by a landslide in last month's presidential election, was sworn into office Sunday nearly a year after he ousted the nation's first freely elected leader.

The retired field marshal called for unity and hard work, while vowing that there would be no reconciliation with those who took up arms against the government and Egyptians. That was a thinly veiled reference to supporters of Mohammed Morsi, the Islamist president el-Sissi removed last July, and Islamic militants waging attacks against the government.

"There will be reconciliation between the sons of our nation except those who had committed crimes against them or adopted violence," el-Sissi said. "There will be no acquiescence or laxity shown to those who resorted to violence."

He did not mention by name Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, which was declared a terrorist group by the government last December. But el-Sissi's rise coincides with detention of thousands and the killing of hundreds of Morsi supporters.

El-Sissi also vowed to fight corruption and appeared to make an overture to pro-democracy and secular youth activists, many of whom boycotted last month's presidential election. They accuse the new president of reviving toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak's police state, pointing to a law passed last year that restricts protests as well as the jailing of a number of well-known activists.

He peppered his 55-minute address with references to "freedom, social justice and bread," the main slogan by youth groups behind the January 2011 uprising that ended Mubarak's 29-year rule.

El-Sissi's July 3 ouster of Morsi triggered a cycle of deadly violence and further polarized Egypt. Now, el-Sissi faces the daunting tasks of reviving Egypt's anemic economy, fighting Islamic militants and cementing his rule after three years of deadly turmoil in the Arab world's most populous country.

Under his rule, el-Sissi said Egypt will work for regional security and stability. He also called on Egyptians to work hard so that their rights and freedoms could grow.

"Let us differ for the sake of our nation and not over it; let us do that as part of a unifying national march in which every party listens to the other objectively and without ulterior motives," he said. "Let our differences be the source of enrichment, diversity and giving that add the spirit of cooperation and love to our work."

El-Sissi's inauguration came less than a year after he ousted Morsi following days of mass protests demanding he step down. He has been praised by many in a wave of nationalist fervor fueled by a jingoistic media, despite the harsh crackdown by security forces.

Supporters drew comfort from his ascension, convinced he is the right man for Egypt. Tens of thousands gathered into the night Sunday at Cairo's famed Tahrir Square, birthplace of the 2011 uprising, to celebrate his inauguration.

"I feel like I'm breathing new oxygen," said Mamdouh Ali Bilal, a retired army colonel who celebrated at Tahrir. "El-Sissi is bringing hope with him, unlike the Brotherhood people. They were like a dark room that makes us constantly afraid of what may be planned next for us."