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Karzai Sworn In as Afghan President

Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai has taken his oath of office, becoming the country's first popularly-elected president. In his inaugural address, Mr. Karzai warned of the continuing dangers of terrorism and the illicit drug trade, issues he says he will tackle during his five-year term.

Afghanistan's Chief Justice swore Hamid Karzai in as president Tuesday, in a festive ceremony including Muslim prayers and children singing patriotic songs.

Afghanistan's popular former king, Zahir Shah, was at the ceremony, and so was a large contingent of foreign dignitaries, including U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and senior United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

In his address, Mr. Karzai reiterated many of his campaign promises, such as eradicating poverty, stamping out official corruption and the disarming of regional militia commanders - who are viewed by some as warlords who threaten the power of the central government.

Reflecting the cultural diversity of the nation, Mr. Karzai alternated as he spoke between the two main languages, Pashto and Dari. He also warned of the continuing threat of terrorism, in light of an ongoing armed insurgency by loyalists of the former Taleban regime and their allies.

The Taleban view the new government as a puppet of the United States and have vowed its overthrow.

Mr. Karzai was named Afghanistan's transitional leader after a U.S.-Afghan coalition ousted the Taleban in 2001, and was elected president in a landslide victory in October.

In his inaugural address, the new president promised to crack down on opium production, which is thought to be a source of income for the insurgents.

While the Taleban had managed to wipe out opium poppy cultivation in the areas of the country they controlled, poppy crops have returned in abundance, making Afghanistan the world's top opium supplier.

Mr. Karzai's inaugural speech also sought to bring the sometimes ethnically-divided country together. He said that every vote cast in the presidential election was a vote for Afghanistan, regardless of whether it went for him or one of his opponents.

Many of the candidates running against Mr. Karzai, had focused on courting their own ethnic constituencies in this culturally diverse nation.

Afghanistan is now preparing for its first post-war parliamentary elections, which President Karzai said he expects to be held on schedule in April.