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Haitian president urges solidarity

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Haiti's president Michel Martelly looks on inside a Haitian Parliament meeting room in Port-au-Prince, Haiti (AP)

Haiti's president Michel Martelly looks on inside a Haitian Parliament meeting room in Port-au-Prince, Haiti (AP)

Haiti's president Michel Martelly looks on inside a Haitian Parliament meeting room in Port-au-Prince, Haiti (AP)

Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly, a pop star known for his bad-boy antics on stage, became earthquake-devastated Haiti's new president and urged his countrymen to set aside their divisions and raise the nation from rubble.

Mr Martelly, 50, was all business as he was inaugurated on the lawn of the collapsed National Palace in Port-au-Prince before a crowd of thousands.

He told his compatriots to respect laws, pay their taxes, and pitch in to ensure that a more independent Haiti moved forward after a massive earthquake last year flattened the capital and outer areas, killing more than 300,000 people and leaving hundreds of thousands more living in tents.

The new president was a star of the Haitian pop genre known as compas and many had said his history of crude on-stage antics would prevent him from winning office.

Mr Martelly spoke as if he wanted to distinguish himself from outgoing president Rene Preval, who was seen as aloof and meek.

"Hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, we're going to change Haiti," Mr Martelly told the roaring crowd in a mix of Creole and French. "We want to re-establish order and discipline in the country."

As if to dramatise the challenges facing the desperately poor country, a power cut interrupted the inauguration ceremony.

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The inauguration marked the first time in Haitian history that a president had transferred power to a member of the opposition.

An emphatic and self-confident Mr Martelly laid out his top priorities for rebuilding the country, a plan that focused on education, tax collection, security and foreign investment. To "change the face of Haiti", he said, everybody had to do their part.

Mr Martelly told his audience not to throw rocks in protest or build homes on precarious ravines. When he told his audience to pay taxes to improve services, the message seemed aimed at the business class sitting in the shade of the stands.


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