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Fiji swears in new president

world Updated: Nov 05, 2009 07:46 IST

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Fiji's acting president Ratu Epeli Nailatikau was sworn in as head of state of the military-ruled Pacific nation on Thursday.

Nailatikau, a former army commander credited with guiding self-appointed Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama through his military career, was appointed as acting president after Ratu Josefa Iloilo retired at the end of July.

President Nailatikau had been appointed vice president in April, a week after Bainimarama repealed the constitution, sacked the judiciary and introduced emergency regulations including press censorship.

The largely ceremonial positions of president and vice president were traditionally appointed by Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs, sidelined by Bainimarama soon after he ousted the elected government in a 2006 coup.

Nailatikau was sworn in by Chief Justice Anthony Gates at Government House in the capital Suva in a ceremony attended by military officers, government officials and some diplomats.

Australia and New Zealand were not represented after Bainimarama on Tuesday expelled their top envoys over travel sanctions against Fiji's judiciary.

Wellington and Canberra on Wednesday expelled the Fijian mission heads in a tit-for-tat retaliation.