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Standing before golden statues of his ancestors and blessed by monks whose chants filled a hall in the Royal Palace, former ballet dancer Norodom Sihamoni took over the throne Friday from his father, ending the reign of one of Asia's most colorful rulers.

Sihamoni, who has no political experience, was enthroned in an elaborate ceremony that included the blowing of conch shells and traditional music.

Shaded by a large parasol, Sihamoni was taken to the throne room on a litter led by palace guards and musicians. He repeated his oath to serve the country and its people three times while bowing before the golden-hued throne.

Fifty-two Buddhist monks -- one for each year of the new king's life according to the traditional Cambodian zodiac -- chanted blessings for about 40 minutes. By the Western calendar, Sihamoni is 51 years old.

He succeeds his father, Norodom Sihanouk, who abdicated three weeks ago, citing ill health.

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