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Tunisian president affirms rights

TUNIS, Tunisia - Tunisia's newly elected president promised Tuesday at his swearing-in to be a leader for all Tunisians.

TUNIS, Tunisia - Tunisia's newly elected president promised Tuesday at his swearing-in to be a leader for all Tunisians.

Veteran rights activist Moncef Marzouki, who was repeatedly imprisoned by the old regime, said he would make a clean break with Tunisia's history of dictatorship and promised Tunisians the right to education, work, and health care, and equal rights to all women.

Tunisians overthrew their long-ruling dictator in January, sparking a wave of pro-democracy demonstrations across the region.

In October, they elected an assembly to write their new constitution and appoint a new president and interim government.

"Tunisians have proved to the world that they are a civilized people who have the ability and resources to overcome all challenges," he said, while acknowledging that urgent work needed to be done to save a failing economy. "The Arab world is watching the Tunisian experience, and its success will be a model, while its failure would have negative repercussions."

Marzouki pledged to work with both the ruling coalition that elected him as well as the opposition that turned in blank ballots at his election.

Opposition politicians have expressed worry that most of the power in the new republic is concentrated in the hands of the prime minister and not shared with the president.

Marzouki, who has few real powers, pledged to consult with both the ruling coalition and the opposition and called on them to "demonstrate fair play and propose solutions" to the many problems in this North African country of 10 million.

The uprising against former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was partly driven by economic concerns, and to this day about 700,000 young people, 200,000 of them university graduates, remain unemployed.

Marzouki also pledged to increase investment and development in the country's impoverished interior, where the revolution began Dec. 17, almost a year ago to the day.

Marzouki shed tears at the conclusion of his speech as he mentioned the sacrifices of the more than 250 people who died during the uprising.

The new president must appoint a prime minister, expected to be Hamadi Jebali of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, which won the most seats.

Jebali then has 21 days to form a government, which will then be submitted to the parliament for approval.