- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2007

12:14 p.m.

PARIS (AP) — Nicolas Sarkozy took office today as the new president of France, waving farewell to the outgoing Jacques Chirac and promising a new era of government that will unite political rivals and give a strong role to women.

Mr. Sarkozy said his priorities would include restoring “order and authority” to a nation where riots by largely black and Arab youths erupted in run-down housing projects in 2005 and where tensions and frustration still simmer over discrimination and alienation. He is expected to form a government quickly and has pledged that half the ministers will be women.

Mr. Chirac, ending 12 years in power, entrusted the country’s nuclear codes to his successor in a private meeting that was a high point of the transition between the two conservatives.

A 21-gun salute from the cannons of the gold-domed Invalides, where Napoleon is buried, heralded the Sarkozy presidency.

Mr. Chirac, 74, took his leave quietly. He shook hands with his one-time protege, turned rival, at the entrance of the ornate Elysee Palace and walked alone to a waiting car. Mr. Sarkozy returned the wave before entering his home for the next five years.

The blunt Mr. Sarkozy, 52, is the son of a Hungarian immigrant and the first president of France born after World War II. The generational difference is evident in his head-on approach to tackling the nation’s problems.

A divisive figure reviled by many on the left, Mr. Sarkozy has said he hopes to announce a new government within days, and he has met with Socialist Party figures in hopes of including some in his Cabinet. In his first speech as president, he made a frank appeal to rivals to help in his task.

“I want to express my conviction that in the service of France there are no camps,” he said. “To all those who want to serve their country, I say I am ready to work with them and I will not ask them to deny their convictions.”

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