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Former army chief sworn in as president in Egypt

The former army chief who toppled Egypt’s first freely elected civilian leader was sworn in yesterday as president, urging hard work to correct the “mistakes of the past” in a polarized nation struggling with political turmoil and a battered economy.

Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s ascension, after Mohammed Morsi’s ouster last year, brings Egypt full circle back to its decades-old tradition of a president pulled from the military’s ranks. Dubbed a savior by his supporters, and the man who led a military coup and deadly crackdown on Islamists by his critics, El-Sissi crushed his sole rival with 97 percent of the vote.

Turnout of about 47 percent raised questions about whether he won a broad mandate to address the unrest and economic stagnation that have persisted since autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in 2011.

Egypt will undergo a “total renaissance domestically and in the foreign arena to compensate for what we missed and correct the mistakes of the past,” El-Sissi said to an audience of foreign dignitaries including the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.

Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been Egypt’s biggest benefactors since Morsi’s ouster in July after days of mass protests, injecting billions of dollars in grants and other aid to support the Arab world’s most populous nation.

The time has come to chart a “new reality” for Egypt that allows its citizens to live better and develop freedoms “in a responsible context,” El-Sissi said.

El-Sissi spoke at the presidential palace where Morsi and Mubarak had ruled, hours after he was sworn in at the same hall in the Supreme Constitutional Court where Morsi had also taken the oath of office. The animosity against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood that fielded him for office was palpable, with one senior justice describing the Islamist’s time in power as a period when one group “tore apart” the nation.

Morsi’s ouster was a result of an uprising “inspired by people tired of the destruction that has befallen them, the injustice they faced,” Maher Sami, deputy head of the court, said in a televised speech. “This was not a military coup.”

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