Belarus leader sworn in for fourth time

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has taken the oath of office for a fourth term following a landslide victory in last month's election.

Lukashenko was sworn-in at the Palace of the Republic in the capital Minsk on Friday. In a televised ceremony, the Belarusian leader vowed to serve his nation and to "respect and preserve the rights and freedom of people and citizens," AFP reported on Friday.

"Assuming the office of President of the Republic of Belarus, I solemnly swear to faithfully serve the people of the Republic of Belarus, to respect and protect the rights and freedoms of citizens, to respect and defend the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, and faithfully perform the high duties assigned to me," Lukashenko said as he took the oath of office.

During Friday's inauguration, the 56-year-old Belarusian leader warned that no dissent will be tolerated. Lukashenko said that Belarus "has exhausted the limits of revolutions and upheavals" and his government will "safeguard security and stability against plots from within and outside the country."

Absent from the swearing-in ceremony were the ambassadors of the US, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Lithuania and nine other European Union countries. The envoys left Minsk on Thursday in protest at the result of December 19 vote. They criticized the poll as fraudulent and rigged.

Lukashenko has on occasions accused Poland and Germany of orchestrating an uprising to drive him from power. Both Warsaw and Berlin reject the allegations as baseless.

Lukashenko won 80 percent of the vote in last month's poll. His re-election was followed by anti-government protests and riots. More than 20,000 Belarusians took to the streets to protest Lukashenko's victory.

The government subsequently ordered a violent crackdown and a large number of opposition leaders and activists were detained at post-election protests.

Lukashenko has ruled the former Soviet republic of Belarus since July 20, 1994.


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