The first woman President in Central Asia was sworn in in Kyrgyzstan on Saturday, three weeks after bloody ethnic violence in the country's southern regions claimed hundreds of lives.

Speaking at an inauguration ceremony in the capital Bishkek Ms. Rosa Otunbayeva (59), promised that thousands of people whose houses had been torched during last month's riots will be provided with new housing before winter comes.

“Today Kyrgyzstan is living through one of the most dramatic periods in its history,” she said. “Dark forces have spilt the blood of many innocent people.”

Ms. Otunbayeva came to power during a popular revolt that overthrew President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in early April in what was a second violent change of government in the small Central Asian state in five years.

Under the new Constitution overwhelmingly approved in a referendum last Sunday, Ms. Otunbayeva will preside over a political reform that will transform Kyrgyzstan from a presidential to a parliamentary republic.

She will act as President for 18 months, and will not be able to run for office in new elections scheduled for the end of 2011.

Ms. Otunbayeva faces the challenge of healing the wounds of the June 10-14 violence against ethnic Uzbek residents of Osh and Jalal-Abad in which at least 2,000 people are feared to have died and hundreds of thousands became refugees.

Ms. Otunbayeva, a former Foreign Minister and Ambassador to Britain and the United Nations, was one of the leaders of the “Tulip Revolution” that overthrew President Askar Akayev in 2005.

After heading the interim government in April she pledged to build close ties with Russia, describing it as Kyrgyzstan's main strategic ally. Many analysts however consider her to be a pro-U.S. politician.

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