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TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania’s new president was sworn in on Sunday and urged the nation’s political parties to cooperate on the country’s future and consolidate the rule of law.

President Bajram Begaj, 55, who won after getting 78 votes in the 140-seat Parliament, formally took office at a ceremony in parliament.

“I won’t stand neutral to anyone putting personal interests above those of our nation,” said Begaj, a former army chief-of-staff general.

At a later ceremony at the presidential office the Constitutional Court head handed over the country’s Constitution to Begaj.

Begaj was nominated by the governing left-wing Socialist Party after no compromise candidate was reached with the opposition. Most opposition lawmakers boycotted the voting and some avoided the swearing in ceremony too.

Begaj is post-communist Albania’s eighth president and the third from the military ranks. The five-year presidency has a largely ceremonial role and the president is expected to stand above partisan divisions. The president is the army’s commander general, also holding some authority over the judiciary and the armed forces.

Begaj started his speech at parliament talking about Albania’s “irreversible European path.”

Earlier this month Albania, a NATO member since 2009, launched accession talks with the European Union.

“European Albania, today a promise and tomorrow a reality, is the crown of the most beautiful historical dream of the Albanian people,” he said.

The EU, the United States and other Western countries welcomed Begaj in his new post.

European Council President Charles Michel congratulated Begaj in a tweet Sunday, adding that “With the opening of accession talks, we are at an exciting time in EU-Albania relations.”


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