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Paraguay's new president Federico Franco attends a Mass with his wife outside the Cathedral in Asuncion, Paraguay (AP/Jorge Saenz)

Paraguay's new president Federico Franco attends a Mass with his wife outside the Cathedral in Asuncion, Paraguay (AP/Jorge Saenz)

Paraguay's new president Federico Franco attends a Mass with his wife outside the Cathedral in Asuncion, Paraguay (AP/Jorge Saenz)

Paraguay's newly sworn-in president set about forming a new government as he promised to honour foreign commitments, respect private property and reach out to Latin American leaders to minimise diplomatic fallout and keep his country from becoming a regional pariah.

In a brief appearance before international journalists, Federico Franco tried to broadcast a sense of normality a day after politicians overwhelmingly voted to kick President Fernando Lugo out of office.

"The country is calm. I was elected (as vice president) in 2008 by popular vote. Activity is normal and there is no protest," Mr Franco said.

His first two appointments were Interior Minister Carmelo Caballero, who will be tasked with maintaining public order in this poor, landlocked South American nation, and Foreign Minister Jose Felix Fernandez, who will immediately hit the road to try to appease fellow members of the Mercosur and Unasur regional trade blocs.

"Our foreign minister will go to Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay to meet with authorities and explain to them that there was no break with democracy here. The transition of power through political trial is established in the national constitution," Mr Franco said.

The Paraguayan Senate voted 39-4 on Friday to dismiss Lugo a little more than a year before his five-year term was to end, and Mr Franco took the oath of office soon after. Lugo's removal drew swift condemnation around Latin America from leaders who called it a de facto coup, and several presidents said they would seek Paraguay's expulsion from regional groups.

On Saturday night, Argentine President Cristina Kirchner announced the withdrawal of her ambassador to Paraguay, citing "grave institutional events" and saying the embassy's No 2 will remain in charge "until democratic order is re-established in that country". Cuba called it a "parliamentary coup d'etat executed against the constitutional President Fernando Lugo and the brother people of Paraguay".

Criticism came not just from the left but from conservative governments, too. Chile said Lugo's removal "did not comply with the minimum standards of due process," and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said "legal procedures shouldn't be used to abuse. What we want is to help stability and democracy to be maintained in Paraguay."

Given the tough talk, Mr Franco could find mending fences to be a tall order. "It looks terrible throughout the region," said analyst Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America, a think tank. "(Lugo's removal) doesn't look like a deliberative process, and what it looks like is that a president can be removed simply for being unpopular, or making unpopular decisions."

The US State Department urged "all Paraguayans to act peacefully, with calm and responsibility, in the spirit of Paraguay's democratic principles".

PA