Sarkozy pledges diversity as he takes over as French president



Paris -- Nicolas Sarkozy took office as France's 23rd president yesterday and moved quickly to deliver on promises of change by assembling a Cabinet of historic diversity that is likely to include an internationally known leader of the leftist opposition.

Sarkozy, 52, succeeded Jacques Chirac during a ceremony at the Elysees Palace. Chirac, 74, who served two terms, greeted Sarkozy on a red carpet in the stone courtyard and then took him inside for a 35-minute meeting during which Chirac turned over the top-secret codes to France's nuclear arsenal.

The new president pledged that he will reach across ideological lines, an effort that has caused tension with some of allies. Sarkozy wants his Cabinet to symbolize a new unity by bringing together minorities, numerous women and leaders from rival parties, including prominent Socialist Bernard Kouchner, co-founder of Doctors Without Borders.

"To all those who want to serve France, I say from the bottom of my heart that I am ready to work with them," Sarkozy said in his inaugural address. "I will not ask them to deny their convictions, I will not ask them to betray their friendships, I will not ask them to forget their history. It is up to them to decide in their soul and conscience of free men how they want to serve France."

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