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Georgia swears in new president

Saakashvili is blessed by the leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

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TBLISI, Georgia (CNN) -- Two months after his so-called Rose Revolution swept away President Eduard Shevardnadze, Mikhail Saakashvili was sworn in as president of Georgia Sunday.

The 36-year-old Saakashvili -- elected earlier this month with more than 96 percent of the vote -- takes over the country facing enormous problems.

In an interview with CNN, Saakashvili -- a U.S.-trained lawyer -- said his first task will be putting an end to government corruption in Georgia. He is also faced with an economy in which many people exist on less than a dollar a day. Another problem is the breakaway regions of the country and two Russian military bases which Georgia wants removed as soon as possible.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov attended the inauguration.

In his inaugural address Sunday Saakashvili said Georgia must have Russia as a friend and ally, not an enemy. He said his country appreciates the support given it by the U.S.

Sec. Powell said the purpose of his visit to Georgia was "reassuring the president of our strong support for him and for his reform efforts."

"We have made it clear that we want to work closely with President Saakashvili and his Cabinet as they deal with the very daunting problems that Georgia is facing," Powell said.

"I think both Foreign Minister Ivanov and I being here at this inauguration will show that Russia and the United States can cooperate and areas where people might think we should be in competition, or are in competition with each other, and our message is there is no competition here, at least.

"As far as we're concerned, we're here to help the people of Georgia who are in desperate need and it is in the interests of both the United States and the Russian Federation to help the Georgian people."

Asked whether the United States has differences with the Russians over the presence of U.S. troops in Georgia, Powell downplayed any suggestion of a rift over what he called "a very modest presence."

The troops' mission -- to train and equip Georgian forces so they can root out terrorists in the Pankisi Gorge -- is likely to be completed in the next several months, and has been largely effective, he said.

"The number of terrorists believed to still be wandering around in the gorge area is much reduced from what it was before we started."

Those terrorists, he said, had been attacking Russia through Chechnya. "And so, it was a mission that we had explained to the Russians all along. It is no threat to anyone. It was a way of assisting the Georgians in dealing with a terrorist threat that was affecting Russia."

He predicted the United States would "probably maintain some continuing liaison with Georgian military and paramilitary forces in the gorge, so that we have a sense of what their needs are and what their training requirements in the future might be," but said the basic mission should be ending soon.

Powell is due to return Tuesday to the United States.

CNN's correspondent Jill Doughterty contributed to this report

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