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FORMER DIPLOMAT INSTALLED AS KING OF MALAYSIA DURING ISLAMIC CEREMONY

In a rite that included kissing a sword and Islam's holy book, a former diplomat became Malaysia's 10th king Thursday under a unique system of elected monarchy.

Tuanku Jaafar Tuanku Abdul Rahman, 71, is the hereditary king of Negeri Sembilan, one of nine Malaysian states whose rulers alternate in the largely ceremonial post of national king. His fellow rulers elected him in February.Tuanku Jaafar's father was the first king installed under the system created after British colonial rule ended in 1957.

Sitting on his throne atop a yellow-carpeted dais, Tuanku Jaafar kissed the Koran and unsheathed and kissed the "Kris," the sword of government, to begin a five-year term as Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, or king.

Islam is the official religion of Malaysia, 50 percent of whose 18.8 million people are Muslims. Ethnic Chinese are 35 percent of the population, and 9 percent are ethnic Indians.

"I thank Allah because with his blessings I have been chosen. . . . I hereby pledge . . . to uphold at all times the Islamic religion and stand for a just government and peaceful country," he said.

The ceremony ended with three shouts of "Long live the king," by the assembled 250 dignitaries, including Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and rulers of Malaysian states.