PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia -- Vaclav Havel, renowned playwright-essayist and recent political prisoner, was elected and sworn in Friday as the first non-communist president of Czechoslovakia since 1948.
Havel -- long the moral voice of the political opposition whose works were banned in his homeland until recently -- was elected unanimously by 330 deputies in an emotion-filled ceremony at a joint session of the Federal Assembly, or parliament.
Later, he wiped a tear from his eye as he reviewed the troops in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the military in the courtyard of Hradcany Castle on the hills overlooking the capital.
With his inauguration, students announced they have ended their nationwide strike, which began Nov. 17 following a police attack on peaceful demonstrators that touched off the revolution that toppled the communist leadership.
Spokesman Martin Mejstrik announced on national television that the students will remain on strike alert to assure that democratic processes promised by the new government are carried out.
The Czechoslovak news agency CTK said Havel was preparing a general amnesty to be declared on Jan. 1. There are several political prisoners still being held in Czechoslovakia despite widespread protests in November that forced the previous leadership to release several people.
CTK also said Havel will visit East Germany on Jan. 2 at the invitation of Manfred Gerlach, chairman of its State Council, and West Germany later in the day at the invitation of its president, Richard Von Weizsaecker.
A cheering, jubilant crowd of some 20,000 chanted 'Long Live Havel' when he appeared on the castle balcony with his wife, Olga, and new parliamentary chairman Alexander Dubcek, the leader of the ill-fated 'Prague Spring' of reforms crushed by Soviet tanks in 1968.
Havel replaces Gustav Husak, who resigned as state president Dec. 10 under public demands for a purge of leaders associated with the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion that crushed Dubcek's reforms.
It was a meteoric rise for the soft-spoken intellectual, whose persistent voice of reason helped bring about the peaceful revolution that brought an end to the 41-year communist monopoly on power in Czechoslovakia, all in 11 days in November dubbed 'The Velvet Revolution.'
'Thank you for your support,' said the 53-year-old president. 'I will lead this country until free elections. The elections should be in a fair and democratic way, so the clean face of our revolution is not stained. Thank you very much.'
Czechoslovakia becomes the second East Bloc nation with a non-communist president after Hungary, although the post in Hungary is far more ceremonial. Havel's inauguration follows the rise to power in August of Solidarity official Tadeusz Mazowiecki in neighboring Poland, the first non-communist prime minister in the East Bloc.
Havel was elected as part of a round-table agreement between the government and the opposition that also ensured the election of Dubcek, who was consigned to obscurity after the Warsaw Pact invasion, to head the Federal Assembly.
It was Dubcek who formally proposed Havel for president. Following the election, Dubcek and Prime Minister Marian Calfa walked along the 68-yard-long, 15th century Vladislav Hall, named after a Czechoslovak king, to a back room and returned with Havel.
As they entered the chamber, Havel was given a standing ovation. A military band played a presidential fanfare and several deputies wept during the ceremony.
'It is the best play with the best scenarios that Havel ever wrote,' a witness said.
Among the first to send congratulations were the Soviet Union, the new government of Romania and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa.
'The revolution in Czechoslovakia has put behind us the events of 1968,' said Soviet government spokesman Gennady Gerasimov. 'I congratulate Alexander Dubcek on his new appointment as speaker of the Czechoslovak parliament and Vaclav Havel on his selection as president.'
Walesa, who passed up an opportunity to be president of Poland, said 'Czechoslovakia needs people just like you. I congratulate you and wish you strength in carrying the yoke of responsibility for your homeland.'
President Bush also sent 'a warm message of congratulations' to Havel.
White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater said Bush, in his message to Havel, 'pledged his commitment to the renewal and strengthening of political, economic and cultural ties between Czechoslovakia and the United States.'
Havel took the oath of office in the modern marble parliament building. The oath, approved by parliament Thursday, no longer contains a 'loyalty clause' to the cause of socialism.
'I swear upon my honor and conscience to be loyal to the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic,' he pledged. 'I shall cherish the welfare of the nation and nationalities living in it. I shall discharge my duties in accordance with the will of the people and in the interest of the people and abide by the constitution and other laws.'
Havel spent a total of five years in communist jails. He was a founding member of the human rights monitoring group Charter 77, and many of his colleagues are now in the parliament, having been elected Thursday to replace 21 communist deputies.
He closely cooperated with the Solidarity opposition movement in Poland and numbers prominent Solidarity officials Adam Michnik and Jacek Kuron among his close friends.
'Havel is the best man for president,' said Cardinal Frantisek Tomasek, head of the Catholic Church in Czechoslovakia. 'We attach great hope to the new situation,' he said.
Havel, 53, replaces Gustav Husak, who resigned as state president Dec. 10 under public demands for a purge of leaders associated with the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion that crushed the 'Prague Spring' reforms under Alexander Dubcek.
Dubcek, who had been consigned to obscurity after his fall from power in April 1969, was elected chairman of the Federal Assembly Thursday as part of a round-table agreement between the government and the opposition that ensured Havel's election.
'Mr. Vaclav Havel is today a citizen of our country with the greatest international authority,' said Prime Minister Marian Calfa in announcing his vote.
'Only a man with such credit can represent our sovereignty in the stormy integration processes of present-day Europe,' he said. 'Only a man with such credit can be respected in democratic countries as a reliable partner for long-term agreements that will ensure a secure life in our nations (Czech and Slovak).'
Havel is expected to carry on in the tradition of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, who helped create the modern state of Czechoslovakia and became its first president in 1918 in one of the few truly democratic states in Central Europe at the time.
On Thursday, 23 new deputies were elected to parliament, including several prominent members of the human rights monitoring organizations Charter 77 and the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Persecuted, known by its Czech acronym VONS.
Havel, a scion of an affluent family, first ran afoul of Czechoslovak authorities in his late teens when he was denied entrance to college. Years later, he was permitted to attend night school, and began writing plays and short stories.
The early bloom of his works, however, were frozen after the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion. His plays, while gaining world renown with stagings on Broadway, London, Vienna and other European capitals, were banned in Czechoslovakia.
In 1977 he signed the Charter 77 declaration of human rights, and has subsequently been jailed several times, most recently this year.
As one of the opposition's most prominent and eloquent voices, he was in the forefront of the creation of Civic Forum Nov. 19, two days after a police attack on peaceful demonstrators shocked the nation.
Dubcek, whose 'Prague Spring' reform movement was crushed by Warsaw Pact tanks in 1968, replaces Stanislav Kukral, who was elected first deputy chairman.
Among those who resigned from the House of Nations were former party ideology chief Jan Fojtik.
Under last week's round-table agreement, the Communist Party kept only two of the 23 seats that it previously held. Sixteen seats were filled by representatives of the Civic Forum and five by its corresponding movement in Slovakia, 'Public Against Violence.'
Dubcek, 68, lived in relative obscurity for years in the Slovak capital of Bratislava after his ouster as Communist Party leader in April 1969.
The Communist Party, now purged of the hard-liners that drove him from power, put him up as a presidential candidate against the more popular Havel, but Havel said repeatedly he would not serve as president unless he had Dubcek's support.
The support was reaffirmed in Dubcek's first address to the Federal Assembly.
'The autumn of 1989 has developed the ideals of the 1968 Prague Spring and inspired our nations to new creative acts,' Dubcek said. 'There is much work to do.'
The reform-minded movement was crushed Aug. 20, 1968, when troops from five Warsaw Pact nations -- the Soviet Union, East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria -- were sent into Czechoslovakia.
Dubcek said the first order of business was 'to ensure the irreversibility of the democratic development in our society' followed by economic and social reforms.
'We must do our utmost to prevent the abuse of power for the benefit of a small ruling group,' he said. 'All power should belong only to people,' he underlined.