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Kyrgyzstan swears in new leader after ethnic violence

Roza Otunbayeva, shown casting her ballot June 27, was inaugurated Saturday as Kyrgyzstan's president, becoming Central Asia's first female president and also first female president of a former Soviet republic.SAGYN ALCHIYEV / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: staff and news service reports

Interim leader Roza Otunbayeva has been sworn in as Kyrgyzstan president just weeks after deadly ethnic clashes ripped the troubled republic, it was reported Saturday.

Otunbayeva, 59, became Central Asia's first female president and also first female president of a former Soviet republic, said the Russian news agency RIA.

The inauguration came days after a referendum on the country's new constitution, which makes it the region's first parliamentary democracy, the BBC said.

Otunbayeva said that her government would do everything in its power to ensure the country overcomes the consequences of the ethnic bloodshed that last month claimed hundreds of lives.

Her government came to power after former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was deposed in a bloody popular uprising in April.

A graduate of the Moscow State University and former diplomat, Otunbayeva was officially declared the country's president for a transitional period until December 31, 2011, RIA said.

The new constitution, supported by more than 90 percent of Kyrgyz citizens, converts Kyrgyzstan from a presidential to a parliamentary republic, RIA said. In line with the new constitution, the 120-strong Kyrgyz parliament will appoint the prime minister and the government, the agency said.

Otunbayeva will head the Kyrgyz government until the new cabinet is appointed following parliamentary elections in October, RIA said.

The Kyrgyz referendum followed several days of bloody riots that began June 11, RIA said. The clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and minority Uzbeks claimed the lives of more than 280 people, according to government figures, but Kyrgyz officials acknowledge that the real death toll may be 10 times higher, RIA said.

The agency quoted the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, whose representatives were among some 190 international observers monitoring the referendum, as praising the referendum and the country's interim authorities for organizing a "remarkably peaceful" vote.

Thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed and an estimated 400,000 people — many of them from the minority ethnic Uzbek community — were displaced, the BBC said.

The violence has abated but the country's Uzbek and Kyrgyz populations remain deeply divided, the BBC said.