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MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) _ A 73-year-old industrial engineer who deflected a third attempt by the Sandinistas to retake power was sworn in Thursday as Nicaragua's new president.

Enrique Bolanos of the Constitutionalist Liberal Party became the third democratically elected president in Nicaragua since the Sandinistas peacefully handed over power in 1990, pressured by U.S.-backed Contra fighters.

At least 80 foreign delegates attended the inauguration in Managua's national baseball stadium.

Lawmakers from the opposition Sandinista National Liberation Front boycotted the event, however, after members of Bolanos' party showed up wearing the party's colors. The Sandinistas complained the act violated the national spirit of the inauguration.

Bolanos, vice president until he resigned to run for the presidency, accepted the presidential sash from his former boss, President Arnoldo Aleman.

``This is a new era for Nicaragua,'' Bolanos said in a speech broadcast on national radio and television. ``Nicaraguans are starting to believe in themselves and with God's help we will begin to create jobs, overcome poverty, and improve health and education.''

Bolanos, a fierce critic of the Sandinistas, received 56 percent of the votes in November elections, defeating Sandinista leader and former President Daniel Ortega. It was Ortega's third consecutive defeat.

The elections saw the Sandinistas win only 38 of 92 seats in the National Assembly, meaning they are unlikely to be able to block Bolanos' plans to reactivate the economy.

But just hours before assuming power, Bolanos suffered a political defeat at the hands of his own party, which backed Aleman's bid to become the next president of congress.

Aleman's ambitions could clash with Bolanos' efforts to establish his own leadership and to govern this impoverished country of 5 million, where per capita income is only $430 a year.

Aleman, whose latest term was plagued with allegations of corruption, apparently hopes to use his congressional seat as a launching pad for another run at the presidency in 2007. Nicaragua's constitution bars consecutive, but not multiple presidential terms.

``It's clear that power remains in Aleman's control, we already knew that,'' said Nicaraguan analyst Carlos Fernando Chamorro, editor of the magazine Confidencial.

Ortega, whose socialist government seized Bolanos' properties and had him imprisoned in the 1980s, promised, meanwhile, to work for national reconciliation and for a free-market economy from within the National Assembly.

The Sandinistas seized power in the 1979 revolution and ruled Nicaragua until 1990, during which time they closed the economy, implemented enormous public subsidies and expropriated private businesses, including Bolanos' farm service company.

As head of the country's main business chamber, Bolanos became a fierce critic of Ortega and was imprisoned.

On Thursday, he blamed the Sandinistas for economic problems still haunting the country.

``The effort to install a Marxist-Leninist system caused a massive exodus ... huge inflation and an enormous external debt equaling 48 years' worth of our exports,'' he said.