New Afghan president sworn in after disputed vote

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Raw: Afghanistan Swears in New President

By RAHIM FAIEZ and AMIR SHAH
Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai was sworn in Monday as Afghanistan's new president, replacing Hamid Karzai in the country's first democratic transfer of power since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban.

Moments after Ghani Ahmadzai took the oath, he swore in his election challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, as chief executive, fulfilling a political pledge he had taken to share power and defuse election tensions that had threatened to spark violence between the country's north and south.

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New Afghan president sworn in after disputed vote
Afghanistan's president Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, left, is sworn in by with Chief Justice Abdul Salam Azimi, during his inauguration ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday Sept. 29, 2014. He replaces Hamid Karzai in the country's first democratic transfer of power since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Afghanistan's president Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, left, is sworn in by with Chief Justice Abdul Salam Azimi, during his inauguration ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday Sept. 29, 2014. He replaces Hamid Karzai in the country's first democratic transfer of power since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, left, is sworn in by Chief Justice Abdul Salam Azimi, during his inauguration ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Sept. 29, 2014. Ghani Ahmadzai He replaces Hamid Karzai in the country's first democratic transfer of power since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Afghan former president Hamid Karzai speaks during the inauguration ceremony of newly-elected President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Sept. 29, 2014. Ghani Ahmadzai replaces Karzai in the country's first democratic transfer of power since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, center, swears in two vice presidents during his inauguration ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Sept. 29, 2014. Ghani Ahmadzai replaces Hamid Karzai in the country's first democratic transfer of power since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul))
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, second left, shakes hands with chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, left, during his inauguration ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Sept. 29, 2014. Ghani Ahmadzai replaces Hamid Karzai in the country's first democratic transfer of power since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, second left, swears in chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, left, and his two deputies, during his inauguration ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Sept. 29, 2014. Ghani replaced Hamid Karzai in the country's first democratic transfer of power since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Supporters of Abdullah Abdullah who is to become Afghanistan's chief executive wait for his arrival in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. Afghanistan's two presidential candidates signed a power-sharing deal last Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014 in which Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai will replace Hamid Karzai as president and Abdullah will hold the newly created post of chief executive, akin to a prime minister. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)
A supporter of Abdullah Abdullah who is to become Afghanistan's chief executive waits to listen to his speech in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. Afghanistan's two presidential candidates signed a power-sharing deal last Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014 in which Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai will replace Hamid Karzai as president and Abdullah will hold the newly created post of chief executive, akin to a prime minister. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)
Supporter of Abdullah Abdullah who is to become Afghanistan's chief executive listen to his speech in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. Afghanistan's two presidential candidates signed a power-sharing deal last Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014 in which Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai will replace Hamid Karzai as president and Abdullah will hold the newly created post of chief executive, akin to a prime minister. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)
Abdullah Abdullah who is to become Afghanistan's chief executive, center, watches a performance before he addresses his supporters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. Afghanistan's two presidential candidates signed a power-sharing deal last Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014 in which Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai will replace Hamid Karzai as president and Abdullah will hold the newly created post of chief executive, akin to a prime minister. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)
Abdullah Abdullah who is to become Afghanistan's chief executive, center, arrives to speak to his supporters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. Afghanistan's two presidential candidates signed a power-sharing deal last Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014 in which Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai will replace Hamid Karzai as president and Abdullah will hold the newly created post of chief executive, akin to a prime minister. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)
Abdullah Abdullah who is to become Afghanistan's chief executive arrives to speak to his supporters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. Afghanistan's two presidential candidates signed a power-sharing deal last Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014 in which Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai will replace Hamid Karzai as president and Abdullah will hold the newly created post of chief executive, akin to a prime minister. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)
Afghan girls gather to hear a speech by Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai in his first public appearance since winning the election runoff in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Sept. 22, 2014, Afghanistan's new president-elect says he wants Afghan women represented at the highest levels of government, and he pledged to appoint a woman to the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Afghan president-elect, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai holds hands with his female supporters during his first public appearance since winning the election runoff in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Sept. 22, 2014, Afghanistan's new president-elect says he wants Afghan women represented at the highest levels of government, and he pledged to appoint a woman to the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Afghan school girls gather to hear Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai make his first public appearance since winning the election runoff in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Sept. 22, 2014, Afghanistan's new president-elect says he wants Afghan women represented at the highest levels of government, and he pledged to appoint a woman to the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Afghan president-elect, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, speaks during his first public appearance since winning the election runoff in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Sept. 22, 2014, Afghanistan's new president-elect says he wants Afghan women represented at the highest levels of government, and he pledged to appoint a woman to the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Afghan president-elect, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, center, makes his first public appearance since winning the election runoff in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Sept. 22, 2014, Afghanistan's new president-elect says he wants Afghan women represented at the highest levels of government, and he pledged to appoint a woman to the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Afghan president-elect Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai speaks in his first public appearance since winning the election runoff in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Sept. 22, 2014, Afghanistan's new president-elect says he wants Afghan women represented at the highest levels of government, and he pledged to appoint a woman to the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Afghan president-elect Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai speaks in his first public appearance since winning the election runoff in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Sept. 22, 2014. Afghanistan's new president-elect says he wants Afghan women represented at the highest levels of government, and he pledged to appoint a woman to the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Afghan president-elect Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai prays during makes his first public appearance since winning the election runoff in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Sept. 22, 2014. Afghanistan's new president-elect says he wants Afghan women represented at the highest levels of government, and he pledged to appoint a woman to the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Afghan president-elect, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, center, makes his first public appearance since winning the election runoff, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Sept. 22, 2014, Afghanistan's new president-elect says he wants Afghan women represented at the highest levels of government, and he pledged to appoint a woman to the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Afghanistan's presidential election candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, right, leaves after signing a power-sharing deal as president Hamid Karzai, left, stands at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. Afghanistan's two presidential candidates signed a power-sharing deal Sunday, capped with a hug and a handshake, three months after a disputed runoff that threatened to plunge the country into turmoil and complicate the withdrawal of U.S. and foreign troops. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)
Afghanistan's presidential election candidates Abdullah Abdullah, left, and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, right, prepare to leave after signing a power-sharing deal at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. Afghanistan's two presidential candidates signed a power-sharing deal Sunday, capped with a hug and a handshake, three months after a disputed runoff that threatened to plunge the country into turmoil and complicate the withdrawal of U.S. and foreign troops. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)
Afghanistan's presidential election candidates Abdullah Abdullah, left, and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, right, leave after signing a power-sharing deal at presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. Ahmadzai, who became president, and Abdullah signed the national unity government deal as outgoing President Hamid Karzai watched. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)
Afghanistan's presidential election candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai leaves after signing a power-sharing deal at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. Ahmadzai, who will become president, and Abdullah Abdullah signed the national unity government deal as outgoing President Hamid Karzai watched.(AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)
An Afghan holds a poster of the late Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, during a ceremony honoring Massoud, a beloved anti-Taliban fighter who was assassinated 13 years ago, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014. Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged the country's two presidential candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, to reach an agreement on a new national unity government at the state function that devolved into raucous shouting by agitated supporters of candidate Abdullah. Karzai told the crowd of hundreds of powerbrokers to urge them to reach a deal to end the country's now five-month-long election process. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - SEPTEMBER 22: Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, the winner of the country's presidential election, speaks to their supporters during a press conference today in Kabul September 22, 2014. Afghanistans Independent Election Commission declared Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai as the future Afghan President and his rival Abdullah Abdullah as the Chief Executive on Sunday. (Photo by Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - SEPTEMBER 22: Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, the winner of the country's presidential election, speaks to their supporters during a press conference today in Kabul September 22, 2014. Afghanistans Independent Election Commission declared Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai as the future Afghan President and his rival Abdullah Abdullah as the Chief Executive on Sunday. (Photo by Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - SEPTEMBER 22: Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, the winner of the country's presidential election, speaks to their supporters during a press conference today in Kabul September 22, 2014. Afghanistans Independent Election Commission declared Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai as the future Afghan President and his rival Abdullah Abdullah as the Chief Executive on Sunday. (Photo by Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Afghan President Hamid Karzai looks on during the power-sharing agreement signing ceremony between Afghan presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on September 21, 2014. Afghanistan's two rival presidential candidates signed a power-sharing deal on September 21, ending a prolonged stand-off over disputed election results at a pivotal moment in the war-weary nation's history. AFP PHOTO/Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan President-elect Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai gestures as he speaks during a gathering in Kabul on September 22, 2014. Afghanistan's new President-elect Ashraf Ghani congratulated the country on September 22 on what he called its first democratic transfer of power, but the former rival with whom he signed a power-sharing deal was absent from celebrations. Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah struck an agreement September 21 to form a 'unity government', after months of disputes over who was rightful winner of the June 14 runoff presidential election tipped Afghanistan into a political crisis. AFP PHOTO/Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah (L) and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai stand together after signing a power-sharing agreement at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on September 21, 2014. Afghanistan's two rival presidential candidates signed a power-sharing deal on September 21, ending a prolonged stand-off over disputed election results at a pivotal moment in the war-weary nation's history. AFP PHOTO/Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai signs a power-sharing agreement with unseen rival Abdullah Abdullah at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on September 21, 2014. Afghanistan's two rival presidential candidates signed a power-sharing deal on September 21, ending a prolonged stand-off over disputed election results at a pivotal moment in the war-weary nation's history. AFP PHOTO/Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
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In his first speech, Ghani Ahmadzai called on the Taliban and other militants to join the country's political process and lay down their weapons. However, extremist violence Monday killed at least 12 civilians and police officers as foreign forces prepare to withdraw from the country at the end of the year.

"We are tired of war," Ghani Ahmadzai said in a televised address. "Our message is peace, (but) this doesn't mean we are weak."

Ghani Ahmadzai, a former World Bank official and Afghan finance minister, wore a dark black turban popular in the country's south as he swore in his two vice presidents and then Abdullah.

Abdullah, a former foreign minister, spoke first and thanked Karzai for his service and the people of the country for casting votes in the millions despite the threat of attack from Taliban militants who tried to thwart the election process.

"We are committed as one in the national unity government," Abdullah said. "Our commitment will be fulfilled together as unified team to create national unity."

Ghani Ahmadzai then congratulated Karzai for a peaceful and democratic transition of power, and he thanked Abdullah for making the national unity government possible. The new president also promised to confront the country's endemic corruption.

"We want to be held accountable. I am your leader but I am no better than you. If I make mistakes, you should hold me accountable," Ghani Ahmadzai said.

Karzai - the only president Afghanistan and the West have known since the invasion - wore a wide smile as he greeted his presidential guards upon entering the palace. Karzai has said he is glad to be stepping down after more than a decade of what the U.S. ambassador recently said was one of the most difficult jobs in the world.

The inauguration caps a nearly six-month election season that began when ballots were first cast in April. A runoff election in June between Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah stretched on for weeks as both sides leveled charges of fraud. The United Nations helped carry out what it said was the most thorough recount in its history, a count that reduced Ghani Ahmadzai's vote percentage from 56 percent to 55 percent, but still gave him the win.

But the real power struggle was taking place in marathon talks between the two sides, often brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other U.S. officials. The political deal the sides agreed to created the new position of chief executive that Abdullah will now fill.

The inauguration took place eight days after the political deal was signed between Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah. Though Kerry played a big role in the political deal, the short notice of the inauguration date and events elsewhere in the Middle East did not allow him to attend. Instead, the U.S. was represented by John Podesta, counselor to President Barack Obama. Other notable guests included Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain and Indian Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari.

U.S. officials have said they expect Ghani Ahmadzai to sign a security agreement with the U.S. shortly after his inauguration to allow about 10,000 American troops to stay in the country after the international combat mission ends on Dec. 31.

Even as the inauguration unfolded in the heavily guarded presidential palace, two bomb attacks took place on the road connecting the country's main airport with the palace. One roadside bomb did not result in any deaths or injuries, but a second attack about a kilometer (half mile) from the airport by a suicide bomber killed six or seven people, police officer Abdul Latif said.

A bigger attack took place in the eastern province of Paktia. Police Capt. Mohammed Hekhlas said that a car bomb exploded near a government compound as gunmen attacked, sparking a gun battle that killed seven Taliban militants. Another police official, who gave his name as Azimullah, said four police officers and two civilians also were killed.

For Afghans watching the inauguration, that threat of violence and insecurity remained one of their top concerns.

"I hope Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai can bring peace and the rule the law in Afghanistan as former Afghan President Hamid Karzai could not bring peace," said Abdul Rahman, a 30-year-old police officer. "Our people have been suffering from the instability and poverty."

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