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Politics

Hollande loyalists replace rebels in new French Cabinet

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has unveiled his new Cabinet a day after the government stepped down. This followed a row with the former economy minister over policy.

French Cabinet sees reshuffle

Some of the names in the new French Cabinet unveiled by Prime Minister Valls on Tuesday were familiar, with Laurent Fabius retaining the Foreign Affairs portfolio.

Notable by his absence, though, was former Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg, who had been at loggerheads with Valls and President Francois Hollande over their efforts to reduce the country's deficit.

Montebourg had announced at a press conference in Paris on Monday evening, that he would not be part of the new Cabinet - France's third in two years.

"I indicated to the prime minister this afternoon that if he believed me to be mistaken, if he believed that my convictions were contrary to the direction of the government that he leads - in this case, I believed it necessary to take back my freedom in the same way he accepted to give it to me," Montebourg said.

The former economy minister also took the opportunity to slam austerity policies, which he said had "extended" France's current economic woes.

"The policies of cutting deficits end up not reducing deficits and for this reason are a financial absurdity because, by restricting growth, they prevent their own goals from being achieved," he said, essentially repeating criticism he had voiced over the past few days, which put him on a collision course with the premier and Hollande.

Staying the economic course

A statement released by the Elysee Palace, announcing that Hollande had entrusted Valls with forming a new government, indicated that the president was determined to stay the course of an economic program dubbed the "Responsibility Pact," which has offered private industry 40 billion euros ($55 billion) in tax breaks in return for a pledge from businesses to create half a million jobs over a period of three years.

"The head of state asked him (Valls) to form a team consistent with the direction he has himself set for the country," the Elysee Palace statement said.

The new Cabinet is packed with Hollande loyalists, who, apart from Fabius, include Finance Minister Michel Sapin, Defence Minister Jean Yves Le Drian, and Hollande's former romantic partner Segolene Royal in the environment portfolio.

In addition to Montebourg, gone from the Cabinet is another member of the Socialists' left wing, Benoit Hamon, who had also openly criticized the government's austerity program. He has been replaced as education minister by Najat Vallaud Belkacem. Emmanuel Macron has replaced Montebourg as economy minister.

pfd/ksb (dpa, Reuters)

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