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Arafat Sworn in As President

Yasser Arafat was sworn in as president of the Palestinian Council in a ceremony at the new legislature’s offices in Gaza.

Arafat’s swearing in came three weeks after his landslide victory in the first Palestinian elections, in which he won 87.1 percent of the vote for president. His supporters gained 55 of the council’s 88 seats.

Placing his right hand on the Koran, Arafat said, “I swear by almighty God to be faithful to the homeland, uphold the constitution and the law and maintain the interests of the Palestinian people and the integrity of its land, and to achieve its national aspirations and God is my witness.”

He took the oath before Salim al-Zaanoun, the acting head of the Palestine National Council, the so-called Palestinian parliament in exile, and Palestinian chief justice Qusai al-Abadleh.

Under the self-rule accord with Israel, Arafat will head a Palestinian government during an interim period, until both sides agree on the final status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Permanent-status talks, which will also determine the future of Jerusalem, Jewish settlements and Palestinian refugees, are slated to begin in May.

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