The former security chief of Nagorno-Karabakh was sworn in Friday as the new president of the Armenian-controlled breakaway region.
Bako Sahakian, who took 85 percent of the vote in July, had headed Nagorno-Karabakh's security service since 2001 until he resigned to run for president. Sahakian pledged to push for full independence of the mountainous territory inside Azerbaijan, which has run its own affairs without international recognition since driving out Azerbaijani forces in the early 1990s.
Azerbaijan has rejected the vote as illegitimate and maintained that Armenian separatists came to power in the former autonomous region as a result of ethnic cleansing.
Armenia's President Robert Kocharian and other senior Armenian officials and lawmakers attended the inauguration ceremony in the regional capital, Stepanakert. Delegations from Georgia's breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia also were present at the event.
The July vote was the fourth presidential election in the impoverished territory that has been controlled by Armenian and ethnic Armenian forces since a shaky 1994 cease-fire ended one of the bloodiest conflicts that followed the Soviet collapse. The six-year war killed 30,000 people and drove more than 1 million from their homes, including many of the region's ethnic Azeris. Today, it remains one of the region's "frozen" conflicts in the former Soviet states.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Sahakian said that Azerbaijan must accept Nagorno-Karabakh representatives at talks. "We hope that our opponents will sooner or later come to understanding that there is no alternative to talks with full-fledged participation of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic," Sahakian said.