Syria's Assad starts new term after re-election dismissed by international community
A handout picture released by the Syrian presidency's press office shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during an interview with AFP in the capital Damascus on April 12, 2017

President Bashar al-Assad was sworn in Saturday for seven more years after a controversial May election dismissed by Europe and the US as "neither free nor fair". His new term extends the Assad family's rule to almost six decades; Assad's father Hafez al-Assad led Syria for some 30 years.

President Bashar al-Assad took the oath of office for a fourth term in war-ravaged Syria Saturday, after taking 95 percent of the vote in a controversial election dismissed abroad.

Assad was sworn in on the constitution and the Koran in the presence of more than 600 guests, including ministers, businessmen, academics and journalists, organisers said.

The elections "have proven the strength of popular legitimacy that the people have conferred to the state," 55-year-old Assad said, in his inauguration speech.

They "have discredited the declarations of Western officials on the legitimacy of the state, the constitution and the homeland," he added.

The vote extending Assad's grip on power was the second since the start of a decade-long civil war that has killed more than half a million people, displaced millions and battered the country's infrastructure.

On the eve of the May 26 election, the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy said the poll was "neither free nor fair", and Syria's fragmented opposition has called it a "farce".

With his campaign slogan, "Hope through work", Assad cast himself as the sole architect of a reconstruction phase for the troubled country.