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Finland’s new conservative president sworn in

HELSINKI (AP) – Sauli Niinisto was sworn in Thursday as Finland’s president, becoming the first conservative head of state in the Nordic country in over half a century.

The 63-year-old Niinisto from the conservative National Coalition Party replaces Tarja Halonen, who had spent 12 years in office.

With right-leaning Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen leading the government, conservatives now control the Finland’s top two posts.

A former finance and justice minister, Niinisto took his oath in the 200-seat Parliament. In his speech to lawmakers, he said he was worried over Finland’s financial welfare and the government’s increasing tendency to borrow money, issues he described as “warning signals” for the nation’s economy.

A lawyer by profession, Niinisto was finance minister in 2002 when Finland adopted the euro.

Finland has been a vocal supporter of a hard-line stance against profligate eurozone member countries such as Greece and Italy _ a position that finds wide support among the country’s 5.3 million people.

Though the presidency is largely a ceremonial role not involved in daily politics, Niinisto said the head of state can act as “an agent of the economy and agent of integrity.”

He pledged to keep up with Finland’s reputation for “responsibility and solidarity” within the European Union, while actively seeking to strengthen ties with the United States and China.

Under Finland’s Constitution, the president takes the lead on non-EU matters of foreign policy and acts as the supreme commander of the armed forces.

Niinisto will serve a six-year term.

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