Europe

French cabinet reshuffle leaves Fillon as PM

Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Fillon (11 November 2010)
Image caption Francois Fillon's popularity ratings regularly exceed those of the president

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has replaced his foreign and defence ministers as part of a significant cabinet reshuffle.

Michele Alliot-Marie replaces Bernard Kouchner as foreign minister, while Alain Juppe becomes defence minister in place of Herve Morin.

Earlier on Sunday, Mr Sarkozy reappointed Francois Fillon as prime minister.

Most of the other big figures from the outgoing government remain in place.

Christine Lagarde will remain as economy minister, while Brice Hortefeux is staying on as interior minister.

Mr Juppe is a former prime minister, while Ms Alliot-Marie was justice minister.

Mounting tension

With his popularity at rock bottom, President Nicolas Sarkozy could have seen the reshuffle as a moment for a change of direction, says the BBC's Hugh Schofield. Instead, the president has calculated that it is in sticking to the course that lie his best hopes for re-election in 2012.

The moves come a day after the entire government handed in its resignation.

There has been mounting political tension in France in recent months.

Last month, parliament passed controversial reforms to the country's pension system which sparked widespread protests.

The incoming government will be in charge of implementing policy in the run-up to the next presidential elections in 2012.

The outgoing foreign minister, Mr Kouchner, a socialist, had recently expressed unease at some government policies.

There had been speculation Energy Minister Jean-Louis Borloo could become PM, but he has no position in the new government.

In a statement, Mr Fillon spelled out his priorities as head of the new government.

"After three and a half years of brave reforms, carried out despite a severe global economic and financial crisis, I am starting... a new phase with determination which will allow our country to strengthen the growth of the economy to help jobs, promote solidarity and safeguard the security of all French people," he said.

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