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Sarkozy reshuffles cabinet

French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced a minor cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday with six new junior cabinet ministers, including Anne-Marie Idrac (pictured).


LE PETIT BORNAND, France, March 18 (Reuters) - French
President Nicolas Sarkozy announced a minor cabinet reshuffle on
Tuesday but vowed to pursue reform plans after his centre-right
UMP party suffered big losses in local elections at the weekend.

"What is sure is that I will need to take a certain number
of initiatives to continue the changes that are needed for our
country," he said at the sidelines of a commemoration for
France's World War Two resistance movement.

"I was elected to conduct these policies and that's what I
am going to do," he said.

The comments, shortly before the appointment of six new
junior ministers including new secretaries of state for foreign
trade and employment, repeated the government line that there
would be no change of course after the election.

An opinion poll by the BVA polling institute showed 63
percent of those questioned judged the government's economic
policies bad or very bad, against 58 percent a month ago.

The poll also found that 51 percent thought he should adapt
his policies to reflect the concerns of voters over social
issues and the need to protect services, against 40 percent who
wanted faster reforms of pensions and public finances.

Sarkozy, whose own personal unpopularity played a big role
in the campaign, has made little direct comment on the election,
that left the opposition Socialists in charge of seven of
France's top 10 cities including the capital Paris as well as
most of its administrative regions.

Ten months after his election in May 2007, his image has
been dented by crumbling public confidence in the economy and
irritation at a sometimes impetuous and brusque manner that many
voters feel is unbecoming of a president.


Sarkozy's public agenda this week has been filled mainly
with events in keeping with the traditional role of the
president, beginning with a commemoration on Monday for the last
French veteran of World War One.

On Tuesday, he continued with a visit to the Glieres plateau
in the mountainous Haute Savoie region of eastern France, scene
of one of the biggest battles between wartime resistance forces
and the occupying Germans.

"This is not the place for a political speech and there's so
much agitation," he said. "There needs to be a lot of calm in
the position I hold, a lot of cool-headedness."

There was no fanfare about the ministerial changes, which
were announced in a statement issued from Sarkozy's office.

Among the new ministers, Anne-Marie Idrac, former head of
French national railway operator SNCF, was named minister for
foreign trade and Laurent Wauquiez, up to now the government
spokesman, was appointed minister for employment. He will be
replaced as spokesman by consumer affairs minister Luc Chatel.

Yves Jego, spokesman for the UMP party, was named minister
for overseas territories, replacing Christian Estrosi, who
stepped down after he was elected mayor of Nice.

The new cabinet list issued on Tuesday showed Economy
Minister Christine Lagarde's title had changed from "Economy and
Finance" to "Economy, Industry and Employment" but there was no
indication that this implied a change in her responsibilities.

Budget and Public Accounts Minister Eric Woerth also kept
his portfolio.

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