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Canadian prime minister sworn in

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Stephen Harper is sworn in as Canada's 22nd prime minister by Privy Council President Alex Himelfarb in a ceremony on Monday.

Stephen Harper is sworn in as Canada’s 22nd prime minister by Privy Council President Alex Himelfarb in a ceremony on Monday.

Fred Chartrand, Associated Press

TORONTO — Stephen Harper, who promises to mend Canada's frayed relations with the United States, was sworn in as the nation's 22nd prime minister Monday, marking the first time in more than 12 years that the Conservative Party will rule this traditionally liberal nation.

The 46-year-old economist has pledged to cut taxes, clean up government corruption and reconsider such hot-button issues as gay marriage. He takes over for outgoing Liberal Party leader Paul Martin, whose 18-month government was marred by indecision and the inability to rise above an ethics scandal that outraged many Canadians.

"As a government, our mission is clear," Harper said shortly after being was sworn in. "We will act on the collective priorities of Canadians so that our country remains strong, independent and free."

Harper's personal politics are in line with that of many Republicans south of the border. He is anti-abortion and against gay marriage and big government — and many believe rocky relations will now improve with the White House.

But to govern effectively and remain in power, he will have to balance his own beliefs with the many Canadians who disdain the Bush administration and, in particular, the war in Iraq.

Harper immediately went into his first Cabinet meeting with ministers who also were sworn in by Governor-General Michaelle Jean in a ceremony at her residence, Rideau Hall, in the federal capital of Ottawa.

The new team had been kept under wraps and was made public only minutes before the ceremony.

Peter MacKay, deputy leader of the Conservative Party, was sworn in as minister of foreign affairs and Stockwell Day became minister of public safety, an important post that works closely with Washington on security and anti-terrorism issues.

Gordon O'Connor was sworn in as minister of defense. Harper declined to name a deputy prime minister, doing away with the post under him.

The 27-member cabinet, which includes six women, is much leaner than the 39 positions the Liberals had. They arrived at Rideau Hall in cars and taxis — an apparent effort to show they are closer to the people than the Liberals, who used limousines.

"Our team is talented and diversified and reflects Canada and we will work hard for all Canadians," Harper said. "The Cabinet that I have put together is smaller, but it will be more focused and more effective."