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Ill president cedes power to deputy

Suriname's newly elected president, former dictator Desi Bouterse, is ailing from an undisclosed illness and temporarily ceded power to his vice president in the South American country.

Vice President Robert Ameerali announced in Parliament that he will be in charge until September 2 while Mr Bouterse rests at home.

He refused to disclose more specifics about the illness, saying only that the 64-year-old president "is doing well and no one needs to worry".

A terse statement from the Cabinet said just that Mr Bouterse is "sick".

Mr Bouterse has not been seen much since his swearing-in ceremony earlier this month - an August 17 Cabinet meeting in Paramaribo was his last public appearance.

Speculation in Paramaribo is widespread that Mr Bouterse has fallen ill from dengue fever, a potentially serious mosquito-borne virus that is reaching epidemic stages across the region.

Mr Bouterse is a former coup leader, convicted drug trafficker and accused murderer in Suriname.

The dictator's past made his election last month by Parliament uncomfortable for the international community.

In May general elections, Mr Bouterse's party captured 40% of the vote and 23 seats in parliament with a populist campaign that featured pledges to build more houses and increase social security spending.

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