Syria’s Assad takes oath after much maligned re-election
President Bashar al-Assad took the oath of office for a fourth term in war-ravaged Syria on July 17, after officially winning 95 percent of the vote in an election dismissed abroad.
It was the second presidential poll since the start of a decade-long civil war that has killed almost half a million people and battered the country's infrastructure.
Shortly before the ceremony, rockets fired by pro-government forces killed six people including three children and a rescue worker in the country's last major rebel bastion of Idlib, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
An AFP correspondent in the village of Sarja saw men work hurriedly to remove bodies from the rubble of a collapsed home, before carrying one away in a red blanket.
Assad, 55, was sworn in on Syria's constitution and the Koran in the presence of more than 600 guests, including ministers, businessmen, academics and journalists, organisers said.
The elections "have proven the strength of popular legitimacy... conferred on the state", Assad said in his inauguration speech.
They "have discredited the declarations of Western officials on the legitimacy of the state".
On the eve of the May 26 election, the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy said the poll was "neither free nor fair", and Syria's fragmented opposition has called it a "farce".
Syria's war has displaced millions of people since starting in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.
Assad called on "those who bet on... the collapse of the state" to return to "the homeland's embrace".
With his campaign slogan, "Hope through work", Assad had cast himself as the sole viable architect of reconstruction.
In his speech, he said the focus was now...