Karzai sworn in as Afghan president

Kabul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Hamid Karzai is officially Afghanistan's new president. Wearing a traditional green robe, a hand on the Holy Qu'ran, he said: "I swear to obey and safeguard the provisions of the sacred religion of Islam, to observe the constitution and other laws of Afghanistan and supervise their implementation, and with the assistance of God and the support of the nation, to make great and sincere efforts for the happiness and progress of the people of Afghanistan." He was followed by Vice-Presidents Ahmad Zia Massood and Karim Khalili who were also sworn in.

The ceremony was solemn and well-protected with 600 guests, including US Vice-President Dick Cheney, a mirror image of a country still mired in violence and in need of US aid but hopeful that things can get back to normal.

Before the ceremony, Karzai thanked the United States for its help. "Without that help, Afghanistan would be in the hands of terrorists," he said. "Terrorism as a force is gone. [But] as individuals they are all around and we will continue to look for them."

The list of dignitaries included US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and Pakistan's Interior Minister, Aftab Khan Sherpao. The United Nations was represented by Lakhdar Brahimi, special adviser to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.