Damascus (Syria): Proclaiming the Syrian people winners in a "dirty war" waged by outsiders, President Bashar Assad was sworn in on Wednesday, marking the start of his third seven-year term in office amid a bloody civil war that has ravaged the Arab country.
Syrian state television broadcast what it said was a live ceremony from the presidential palace in Damascus during which Assad took the oath of office.
The TV showed Assad arriving at the People's Palace in the Qassioun Mountain, the scenic plateau that overlooks the capital from the north. A band played the Syrian national anthem after which Assad was seen walking a red carpet past an honor guard into a hall packed with members of parliament and Christian and Muslim clergyman.
Wearing a dark blue suit and a blue shirt and tie, Assad placed his hand on Islam's holy book, the Quran, pledging to honor the country's constitution.
"I swear by the Almighty God to respect the country's constitution, laws and its republican system and to look after the interests of the people and their freedoms," he said.
He then launched into a speech in which he praised the Syrian people for holding the vote and for "defeating the dirty war" launched on the Syrian people.
Throughout the three-year-old conflict, Assad has maintained that the conflict that has torn his nation apart was a Western-backed conspiracy executed by "terrorists" — and not a popular revolt by people inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings, seeking democracy and disenchanted with his authoritarian rule.
As the conflict slid into civil war, Assad refused to step down and last month, he was re-elected in a landslide victory in a vote dismissed by the opposition and its Western allies as a sham.
He won 88.7 percent of the ballots cast in the first multicandidate elections in decades. The voting didn't take place in opposition-held areas of Syria, effectively excluding millions of people from the vote.
But reflecting the security threat surrounding Assad, the inauguration ceremony was for the first time held at the presidential palace and not in the Syrian parliament as has been the tradition.
Syrian TV announced Wednesday morning he would be sworn in at noon. His previous term in office was to expire on Thursday, and he had been widely expected to be sworn in then.