Islamist Mohamed Morsi is promising a brighter future for Egypt, saying the country has finally turned the page on military rule.
President Morsi spoke to hundreds of officials and supporters gathered at Cairo University Saturday for his inaugural address, just hours after he took the oath of office as Egypt's first elected civilian president.
During the speech, Mr. Morsi called for a national “rebirth” and urged Egyptians to “put a stop to chaos.” The newly sworn-in president vowed to fight for social justice, and called on the military to go back to its chief duty of protecting Egypt from outside threats.
“The great Egyptian Army will return to carry out its responsibility of protecting the country's security and its borders and protecting the strong, dear and united armed forces which will work with the country's institutions in the framework of the constitution and rule of law. I salute them for what they have accomplished and withstood.''
Turning to foreign affairs, Mr. Morsi pledged support for what he described as the “legitimate rights” of the Palestinian people and called for an end to the bloodshed in Syria.
“There must be an end to the bloodshed in Syria. We want the bloodshed of our Syrian brothers to stop. And we will work hard in the near future to achieve this end.''
Mr. Morsi campaigned for president as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group once banned by ousted former president Hosni Mubarak. Once he was officially declared the winner of the presidential election, Mr. Morsi resigned his Brotherhood membership, in keeping with his pledge to represent all Egyptians during his time in office.
Mubarak was driven from office in the massive popular uprising that swept Egypt last year. The ex-leader has since been charged and convicted of ordering a crackdown that killed demonstrators demanding democracy.
Taking the oath of office Saturday morning at Egypt's Constitutional Court, President Morsi vowed to protect Egypt's “modern, civil, constitutional state.”
He said the past year's events have shown that Egypt “is being brought to life as a strong country.”
Mr. Morsi's words seemed to resonate with the many Egyptians gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square.
Omran Fathi was among those who are optimistic the new president may be able to deliver on the promises for change:
“The president's (Mohammed Morsi) speech included all the Egyptian people (from different backgrounds and sectors), all Egyptians, and that was very reassuring.”
Demonstrator Mortada Hassan agreed.
“President Mursi's speech was a speech delivered from an Egyptian citizen. It felt as if I was sitting before an Egyptian citizen who knows of the struggles of the people, a son of Egypt who we can relate to. Unlike before, when we heard speeches by figures who did not understand the circumstances of the people.''
On Friday, Mr. Morsi told supporters he hopes to form an inclusive government of Muslims, Christians and women. He also saluted Egyptians at home and abroad for their sacrifices during the uprising that cleared the way to freedom.
Mr. Morsi had said he would be sworn into office in front of the parliament building, but later yielded to the military council's insistence on holding the inauguration outside the Constitutional Court. The military council dissolved the lower house of parliament, which was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, and gave itself additional powers.
Some observers say that disagreement could be the first phase of a prolonged power struggle between the Brotherhood and the military.
The generals ruling Egypt are due to transfer power to the president by July 1. Mr. Morsi already has moved into the presidential palace formerly occupied by Mubarak.