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New Bhutanese King Pledges Democratic Reforms

Bhutan's new king has used the first major public address of his reign to promise democratic reforms in the small Himalayan mountain country.

King Jigme Khesar Namgyei Wangchuck told thousands of supporters in the capital, Thimphu, he plans to carry out his father's plan to give up the absolute power of the monarchy and transform Bhutan into a parliamentary democracy.

The 26-year-old Western-educated king took power earlier this month, when his 51-year-old father abdicated the throne earlier than expected.

The former king had announced he would step down in 2008, when Bhutan is scheduled to hold its first parliamentary elections as part of its transition to a constitutional monarchy.