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Hollande Sworn In As French President


Francois Hollande delivers a speech at the Elysee Palace after being officially invested as French president.
Francois Hollande has been sworn in as France's new president.

Hollande, the country's first Socialist president in 17 years, took over from his right-wing predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, in an inaugural ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

In a speech to some 400 guests, he said justice would be at the center of his policies and vowed to take Europe down a "new path."

"This is the mandate that I received from the French people on May 6 -- elevate France in justice, open a new path in Europe, contribute to world peace and to the planet's preservation," he said.

Hollande pledged to run the country with "dignity and simplicity" in an effort to separate himself from Sarkozy, faulted by critics for being brash and controlling.

He also reiterated his intention to amend a European financial pact to add growth-boosting measures to the deficit-cutting policies that have been backed by Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Hollande later named close aide Jean-Marc Ayrault, the head of the Socialists' parliamentary bloc, as prime minister.

Hit The Ground Running

The new French president was immediately heading to neighboring Germany for talks on Europe's debt crisis with Merkel.

In an episode that was bound to serve as a symbol of the current malaise among Euroskeptics, Hollande's plane returned to the French capital after being struck by lightning en route to Berlin.

Hollande's election comes as the eurozone battles a crippling financial crisis over fears about Greece's future in the single currency.

There were no injuries reported, and the new French head of state's plane returned to Paris, where Hollande boarded another plane and set off again for the German capital.

He was expected to give his first presidential news conference there together with the chancellor.

"To overcome the crisis that strikes it, Europe needs projects," Hollande said. "It needs solidarity. It needs growth. I will propose to our partners a new pact that will combine the necessary reduction of public debts to the indispensible stimulation of the economy."

On May 17, he will travel to the United States to attend Group of Eight and NATO summits.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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