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ASIA: New king crowned in Bhutan

06 Nov 2008 1:50 PM

THIMPHU, Nov 6 AFP - The new king of the isolated Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan was crowned today in a lavish coronation ceremony, taking over as head of state of the world's newest democracy.

Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, a 28-year-old Oxford-educated bachelor, is the fifth hereditary king of the landlocked Buddhist nation and also becomes the world's youngest reigning monarch.

In an ancient ritual in the white-walled palace overlooking the Thimphu valley, Wangchuck was handed Bhutan's Raven Crown by his father, who abdicatedtwo years ago.

The deeply revered former king, who is 52, decided to step aside as part ofhis vision of reforming and modernising the deeply traditional and insularnation by ending absolute royal rule over the nation of just over 600,000 people.

Bhutan held its first democratic elections for a new parliament and prime minister in March.

AFP srp =0A