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Madagascar Swears in New President

The new president of Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina, has been sworn in at a ceremony shunned by the international community.

Tens of thousands of locals turned out to witnesses Mr. Rajoelina take the oath of office at a stadium in the capital, Antananarivo, Saturday. However, no foreign ambassadors attended the event.

Mr. Rajoelina addressed leaders abroad during his swearing-in speech, saying that Madagascar is a friend of all nations. He also pledged to follow the rules of good governance.

Mr. Rajoelina, who had been mayor of the capital city, took power several days ago after protests and a loss of military support forced President Marc Ravalomanana to resign.

Many nations say Mr. Rajoelina's assumption of power was nothing less than a coup. The African Union suspended Madagascar's membership Friday, and the United States cut all non-humanitarian aid.

A regional grouping of southern African nations, the South African Development Community, is calling for sanctions on Madagascar's leaders when the organization meets later this month.

Madagascar's new prime minister, Monja Roindefo, is denying the takeover was a coup. In an interview with the French news agency, Mr. Roindefo said it was a "direct expression of democracy, when representative democracy does not express itself through the institutions."

Mr. Rajoelina has said he will hold elections within 24 months, a timeframe that former colonial power France has criticized as too long.

The new president is 34 years old, technically six years too young for the presidency under Madagascar's constitution.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.