Iraq’s new President Abdul Latif Rashid assumed office on Monday, promising to bridge the gap between political rivals and push efforts to form a new government after more than a year of deadlock.
Mr Rashid, 78, was elected by Parliament last Thursday, defeating outgoing President Barham Salih, who had been in office since 2018.
In a formal handover ceremony at Al Salam presidential palace in Baghdad, Mr Rashid walked on the red carpet as he was saluted by a guard of honour.
“We hope the new government will be formed quickly and will be strong, capable and unified in order to meet the people's ambitions in security, stability and services,” Mr Rashid said at the ceremony.
“I will exert efforts to bridge the gap between the political parties and to sponsor their dialogues to achieve that goal.”
He also pledged to protect the constitution, Iraq's sovereignty and independence, and help resolve existing issues.
Addressing the matter of foreign relations, he said he would “focus on establishing strong and balanced relations between Iraq and neighbouring countries and the international community”.
Mr Rashid received 156 votes in the first round of voting in last Thursday's session — falling short of the two-thirds majority needed to win. He received 162 votes in a second round of voting.
Mr Salih, who received 99 votes in both rounds, did not attend the handover ceremony.
A veteran politician, Mr Rashid has served in senior government positions throughout his career.
He was born in the northern city of Sulaymaniyah, in the Iraqi Kurdish region, and began his political career in his 20s after joining the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party.
Mr Rashid attained a degree in civil engineering from the University of Liverpool in the UK and continued his education there, earning a master's degree and a doctorate in engineering from the University of Manchester.
He then became Iraq's minister of water resources from 2003 to 2010, before being appointed as a senior adviser in the PUK by the late President Jalal Talabani, who was also the founder of the group and Mr Rashid's brother-in-law.
Mr Rashid is the fifth president since the 2003, when a US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein.
Immediately after his election, Mr Rashid asked Mohammed Shia Al Sudani, a former minister, to form a government.
Mr Al Sudani has 30 days to submit his proposed Cabinet to parliament for approval but has said he aims to do so “as soon as possible”.
A political impasse had gripped Iraq since last October's poll, with sporadic violence breaking out on the streets of Baghdad and southern cities.
Under an unofficial agreement dating back to 2003, Iraq’s presidency, largely a ceremonial position, is held by a Kurd.
The prime minister is a Shiite and the Parliamentary speaker a Sunni, based on the accord.