Rene Preval takes power in Haiti

Rene Preval took power as Haiti's president for the second time in a decade, urging his battered and divided population to unite for peace two years after an armed uprising ousted his predecessor and pushed the nation into chaos.

Thousands of Haitians thronged the national palace to take part in Sunday's inauguration for Preval, a soft-spoken 63-year-old who replaces a U.S.-backed interim government installed after former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled into exile amid the bloody February 2004 revolt.

Preval, a champion of the poor, urged Haiti's fractured society to put aside their differences and work together for a stable, democratic future.

"Haitian people, the solution to our problems is in our hands," Preval said in his inaugural address outside the palace, where a sea of people cheered and waved Haitian flags.

"We need to make peace through dialogue and talking to each other so we can decide where we want to go together," he said. "If we don't talk, then we will only fight and there will be no peace."

Some of the loudest applause from the crowd came when Preval bid farewell to Haiti's two former interim leaders, Prime Minister Gerard Latortue and President Boniface Alexandre, who were unpopular among many poor Haitians who accused their transitional government of persecuting Aristide supporters.

Preval, a former Aristide ally, will have to overcome big challenges to govern, including a corrupt state bureaucracy, a wrecked economy and rampant crime.

Earlier, Preval took the oath of office inside a sweltering parliamentary chamber crowded with Haitian legislators, U.N. officials and foreign dignitaries representing 40 countries. Among them was Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who led the U.S. delegation, Canadian Governor General Michaelle Jean and American actor Danny Glover, reports the AP.

I.L.