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Last Updated: Monday, 27 August 2007, 09:01 GMT 10:01 UK
Japan premier reshuffles Cabinet
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (file image)
Mr Abe needs to win back voters' trust with a strong Cabinet
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has named veteran lawmakers to key posts in his new Cabinet.

Nobutaka Machimura has become foreign minister for a second time - replacing Taro Aso, who is now secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Fukushiro Nukaga and Masahiko Komura also returned to the Cabinet, as the finance and defence ministers.

With the reshuffle, Mr Abe is aiming to shore up support for his embattled government after disastrous July polls.

His ruling coalition, which had been hit by a series of scandals, lost control of the upper house to the opposition Democratic Party of Japan for the first time ever.

But Mr Abe has defied calls for his resignation and analysts say he will be hoping that a strong - and scandal-free - Cabinet will restore voters' faith in him.

'No magical way'

The line-up was announced by newly-appointed Chief Cabinet Secretary Kaoru Yosano.

"I believe Prime Minister Abe made appointments of those who can firmly assume their expected duties," he told a news conference.

"I don't believe there is any magical way to immediately restore support in the Cabinet."

Mr Machimura, who heads the Liberal Democratic Party's biggest faction, was named foreign minister - a post he held under Mr Abe's predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi.

Taro Aso (file photo)
Mr Aso becomes the second highest official in the ruling party

Mr Nukaga, a former defence minister, takes on the role of finance minister, while Mr Komura, a former foreign minister, replace Yuriko Koike as defence minister.

Outgoing Foreign Minister Taro Aso, who shares Mr Abe's conservative agenda and has been seen as a potential successor to him, was earlier appointed to the LDP's second highest post.

He admitted that the party needed to reconnect with voters.

"The major task for us, the Liberal Democratic Party, is to restore people's trust in the party and show firm measures to cope with people's concerns over the future," he said.

Poll disaster

Mr Abe promised a Cabinet overhaul in the wake of last month's upper house elections.

It was a disastrous result for Mr Abe, who took office in September 2006.

The defeat was blamed in part on a series of gaffes and scandals involving several of Mr Abe's ministers.

A nationwide pensions scandal involving millions of lost payment records also caused many voters to question the prime minister's leadership credentials.

The BBC's Chris Hogg, in Tokyo, says that Mr Abe will be hoping that the new team is better at avoiding scandal than those they replaced.

But some in Japan fear that bringing back some of the older faces in the governing party will mean there is less appetite around the Cabinet table for the economic reforms Japan needs, our correspondent adds.




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