CAIRO - Egypt's first Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, took his oath of office on Saturday, June 30, reaping the fruits of last year's popular revolt against Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule and ending six decades of rule by former military men.
"I swear by Almighty God that I will sincerely protect the republican system and that I respect the constitution and the rule of law," Morsi said, after making the same declaration a day earlier in front of tens of thousands of people in Tahrir Square, , Reuters reported.
"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.
Morsi 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."
Morsi was sworn in before the constitutional court earlier on the morning to take his role officially as the new president of Egypt.
The swearing in ceremony marks transfer of power from the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and its head, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.
SCAF has led Egypt's chaotic and sometimes bloody transition since Hosni Mubarak's overthrow, holding elections, but ruling by decree with arbitrary and often contradictory decisions, even as the economy shrinks with millions jobless.
An army decree on June 17 clipped presidential powers, denying the head of state his role as supreme commander of the armed forces with the right to decide on war and peace. It also gave SCAF legislative powers until a new parliament is elected, as well as veto rights over the writing of a new constitution.
Nevertheless, SCAF insists it has now kept a promise, made the day Mubarak fell, to transfer power to an elected president.
"Today is the day to fulfill the pledge, the day that our great army and its national leadership proves that it is the guardian after God," said a statement obtained by Reuters, shortly before a formal handover ceremony to Morsi.
Soon after taking his oath at the Supreme Constitutional Court, President Morsi headed to Cairo University to deliver a speech from the podium used by US President Barack Obama to reach out to the Islamic world in 2009.
"God is greatest, above all," Morsi said at the start of his first public speech at Cairo University.
"Egypt will not go backwards," Morsi said, pledging to keep the country on a democratic course, but saying it would not "export the revolution" or interfere in the affairs of others.
"We carry a message of peace to the world," Morsi said,
He also reaffirmed Egypt's commitment to international agreements, pledging to work to end bloodshed in Syria, scene of the most violent of a string of Arab uprisings.
He also pledged to support for Palestinians' 'legitimate rights.'
After Cairo University speech, Morsi headed to Heikstep army base for the ceremony of transferring power to Egypt's first civilian president, television pictures showed.
Tantawi greeted Morsi with a swift salute when he arrived at Heikstep.
The handover of power to an Islamist by a military that long backed Mubarak and his suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood was just one moment in a day rich in images that told of how much Egypt has changed, as well as the fragility of its transition.
In Tahrir, where demonstrators have camped out for ten days to demand an end to military rule, one man said the protest would go on.
"We will not leave until parliament is restored and the president gets all his authorities," said Mahmoud Arafa, 41.
Arafa, a shopkeeper from Shabin al-Kom in the Nile Delta, said he wanted Morsi to fulfill the promises he made for his first 100 days in office.
"If he cannot, we will help him."
Other Egyptians were optimistic about a brighter future under Morsi's role.
"For the first time in my life I feel we have elected a leader through our own free will," said Mustafa Abu Hanafi, 31, a computer engineer, from Mansouria, Giza.
"When someone graduates he's supposed to have a job. I haven't been able to find one. You always needed 'wasta' (connections). Under Morsi this will change ... He's one of us."