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Sissi to be sworn in as Egypt president

CAIRO - Ex-army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sissi is to be sworn in Sunday as Egypt's new president, confirming the de facto status of head of state which he has already held for nearly a year.

Sissi will take his oath of office at the Constitutional Court, which police and soldiers have placed under heavy guard ahead of the ceremony at 0730 GMT.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, Arab royals from the Gulf and African leaders will later attend a reception at Cairo's Ittihadiya presidential palace.

Sissi won the May 26-28 polls with 96.9 percent of the vote, in a crushing defeat for his only rival, leftist leader Hamdeen Sabbahi, who walked away with only three percent of the vote.

The lopsided victory came nearly a year after Sissi toppled president Mohamed Morsi, winning kudos from many Egyptians who had demanded an end to the Islamist's turbulent one-year rule.

Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, crushed by a massive crackdown, boycotted the vote.

Sissi's main challenges will be to restore stability and revive the economy after three years of turmoil, following a 2011 uprising that ousted strongman Hosni Mubarak.

The retired field marshal called on Egyptians to "work to return security to this nation," in a television address after his victory was announced Tuesday.

"The future is a blank page, and it is in our hands to fill with what we want... bread, freedom, human dignity, social justice," he said.

But Sissi's opponents fear that under his rule, Egypt will return to an autocratic regime worse than under Mubarak.

Since Morsi's ouster, the crackdown by the military-installed authorities on his supporters has killed more than 1,400 people and left thousands behind bars.

In the run-up to the election, Sissi said that "national security" takes precedence over democratic freedoms.

He will be the fifth Egyptian president to rise from the ranks of the military and is expected to reassert the army's grip on politics.

Human rights

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, who opposed Morsi's Brotherhood, called for a donor conference to help Egypt after the results were announced.

The oil powerhouse will be represented at the swearing-in ceremony by Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, alongside the rulers of Kuwait and Bahrain.

Western nations, which congratulated Sissi on his election win while stressing the importance of safeguarding human rights, are sending low-level officials or will be represented by ambassadors.

Washington has voiced concerns about "the restrictive political environment" during the vote, urging Sissi to show "commitment to the protection of the universal rights of all Egyptians."

Senior State Department official Thomas Shannon will represent Washington at the inauguration of the new president of Egypt, the Arab world's most populous nation and a strategic regional partner.

Sunday has been declared a national holiday for state employees to allow them to take part in celebrations for the inauguration.

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Supporters of Egypt's president-elect Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi dance around his poser as they celebrate Tuesday's official announcement declaring him the next president at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, June 6.

(AP)

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