CAIRO - Egypt's first Islamist president, Mohamed Mursi, took his oath of office on Saturday, ending six decades of rule by former military men although the generals in charge since Hosni Mubarak was ousted last year have already curbed his powers.

Mursi was sworn in before the Supreme Constitutional Court, rather than parliament as is usual. The Islamist-led lower house was dissolved by the same court shortly before this month's run-off presidential election.

"I swear by Almighty God that I will sincerely protect the republican system and that I respect the constitution and the rule of law," Mursi said, after making the same declaration a day earlier in front of tens of thousands of people in Tahrir Square.

"I will look after the interests of the people and protect the independence of the nation and safety of its territory," he said before the head of the constitutional court Farouk Soltan and other judges.

He was speaking in the court building next to the Cairo hospital where the jailed former president has been moved.

Mursi said a civilian and constitutional state had been "born today," in his comments after swearing the oath. The ceremony was broadcast by state media.

One of the judges, Maher Sami, began the ceremony by saying that event had "no parallel in all of Egypt's history and was created by the will of the people."

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