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Hasina takes oath as new Bangladesh prime minister

DHAKA (Reuters) - Sheikh Hasina, the winner of Bangladesh’s parliamentary election last month, was sworn in as the country’s prime minister on Tuesday, ending two years of rule by an army-backed interim government.

Bangladesh Awami League President and former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina talks as she meets President Iajuddin Ahmed after her massive victory in the general election in Dhaka December 31, 2008. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

It will be her second time in the office.

President Iajuddin Ahmed administered the oath of office to Hasina, 61, and her new ministers at a ceremony at the presidential palace, attended by political leaders, high civil and military officials, diplomats and other dignitaries.

Hasina’s Awami League and its allies won more than two-thirds of parliament’s 300 seats in the December 29 election, with just 31 going to her bitter rival Begum Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its Islamist ally Jamaat-e-Islami.

Hasina and Khaleda had alternated in power for 15 years ending in 2006, with Khaleda winning two five-year terms and Hasina one.

The period was marked by frequent street protests, strikes and violence as whichever party was in opposition resorted to confrontational politics. The interim government took over amidst violence in January 2007, canceling an election due that month.

Since her victory Hasina has said she hopes for cooperation from all quarters, including the opposition.

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Many Bangladeshis as well as foreign friends of the country hope her government will be stable enough to bring foreign investment and aid, and tackle the many serious problems facing the impoverished country of more than 140 million people.

Khaleda sent a team of her BNP’s newly elected legislators to attend Hasina’s swearing in, although they themselves have not yet taken their oath from the speaker of parliament.

They will do so in a couple of days, BNP officials said on Tuesday.

Hasina picked her ministers from all parties in her electoral “grand alliance” and will announce their portfolios later on Tuesday or on Wednesday, officials said.

In the Bangladesh system ministers can be named and sworn in ahead of the announcement of their specific portfolios. Only two of Hasina’s are familiar faces, while the rest are newcomers, in line with her commitment for change, party workers say.

Reporting by Anis Ahmed; Editing by Jerry Norton