ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar - The new president of Madagascar was sworn in
at a ceremony Saturday that was shunned by the international community
after the ousting of the elected leader.

 

 

Thousands of supporters watched former DJ Andry
Rajoelina take the oath of office at the municipal stadium in the
island country's capital.

 

 

But African countries have refused to accept
Rajoelina as president, and radio stations broadcasting the ceremony
live said no foreign diplomats attended the ceremony.

 

Former president Marc Ravalomanana resigned Tuesday
and placed power in the hands of the military, which then announced
Rajoelina as the country's new president.

The impoverished country of 20 million people is
known for its rare wildlife and eco-tourism, but the stakes have risen
since oil was discovered three years ago.

Rajoelina - who accused Ravalomanana of misspending
funds and undermining democracy - promised new elections within two
years, after a new constitution is adopted, new electoral laws are
introduced and an independent electoral commission is installed. He
said in his speech Saturday that the measures would be handled by a
national commission involving all sectors of society.

"Madagascar is a friend to every nation and to all
the world's citizens," Rajoelina said. "Madagascar today is seeking a
new hope, a peaceful and free future."

He pledged that "the principles and rules of good
governance" would be followed, and he appealed for recognition by the
international community.


But the international community is pressing the country to restore democracy.


The African Union on Friday suspended Madagascar's membership, and the U.S. cut all non-humanitarian aid.


On Thursday, countries in the southern Africa region said they would not recognize Rajoelina.

The African Union's second most important body, the
Peace and Security Council, gave Madagascar six months to restore a
constitutional government, likely through elections, or face possible
sanctions on its leaders, according to Bruno Nongoma Zidouemba, the
council's temporary chairman, who spoke after a meeting in Ethiopia
Friday.

Rajoelina has said his rise was a victory for "true
democracy" over dictatorship, but Ravalomanana had accused him of
seeking power by unconstitutional means. Under the constitution the
34-year-old opposition leader is too young to become president.

After Saturday's swearing-in, Foreign Minister Ny
Hasina Andriamanjato told reporters the new government would seek to
negotiate with foreign countries with the aim of securing recognition.

He said a delegation would be sent to the president
of the African Union, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, to discuss the
summit scheduled to take place in Madagascar in July, radio broadcasts
said. The African Union has made no announcement of a new venue for the
summit after suspending Madagascar on Friday.


Madagascar, one of Africa's poorest countries, has long suffered from political infighting.

Support for Ravalomanana began to waver last month
after security forces opened fire and killed at least 25
anti-government demonstrators.

Ravalomanana clashed with former president Didier
Ratsiraka when both claimed the presidency after a disputed December
2001 election. After low-level fighting split the country between two
governments, two capitals and two presidents, Ratsiraka fled to France
in June 2002.


Ravalomanana won re-election in 2006.