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Aliyev Sworn In, Pledges To Restore Control Over Separatist Region

President Ilham Aliyev taking the oath of office
BAKU (Reuters) -- Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev was sworn in for a second term on October 24 after a disputed landslide electoral victory, and pledged to restore control over his country's breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Aliyev won 89 percent in the October 15 election, which was boycotted by the opposition and criticized by European monitors as less than democratic.

His victory extends the Aliyev family's hold on the oil-producing state, where rights groups accuse the government of restricting democracy and media freedom under cover of an oil-fuelled economic boom.

Aliyev's father Heydar led the country in various guises for more than three decades until his death in 2003.

A personality cult built around Heydar persists today, but some analysts question whether his 46-year-old successor commands the same popularity. Around 200 people gathered on the street to wave to the president.

Aliyev promised a hard line on Nagorno-Karabakh, the mainly Armenian-populated region that split from Azerbaijan in a war in the early 1990s as the Soviet Union fell apart.

The region runs its own affairs with support from Armenia. It has declared independence, but is unrecognized by any state.

"The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is not, never has been, and never will be the subject of talks," Aliyev said.

"Azerbaijan is still interested in the continuation of talks and we remain hopeful," he said, adding that Baku would never recognize an independent Nagorno-Karabakh. "We will strengthen our state independence and restore our territorial integrity."

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said this week he hoped to bring Aliyev and his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian together soon for fresh talks. Azerbaijan has never ruled out using force to restore control over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Aliyev took the oath with his hand placed on the Koran and the constitution, soldiers in white standing in the aisles. "I will implement the policy of Heydar Aliyev," he said, "as this is the only one for the future development of Azerbaijan."