President Bashar al-Assad took the oath of office for a fourth term in Syria, after taking 95% of the vote in a controversial election dismissed abroad.

Mr Assad was sworn in on the constitution and the Koran in the presence of more than 600 guests, including ministers, businessmen, academics and journalists, organisers said.

The elections "have proven the strength of popular legitimacy that the people have conferred to the state," the 55-year-old said, in his inauguration speech.

They "have discredited the declarations of Western officials on the legitimacy of the state, the constitution and the homeland," he added.

The vote extending Mr Assad's grip on power was the second since the start of a decade-long civil war that has killed more than half a million people, displaced millions and battered the country's infrastructure.

On the eve of the 26 May election, the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy said the poll was "neither free nor fair", and Syria's fragmented opposition has called it a "farce".

With his campaign slogan, "Hope through work", Mr Assad cast himself as the sole architect of a reconstruction phase for the troubled country.