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Last Updated: Friday, 18 May 2007, 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK
Sarkozy brings socialist to team
Bernard Kouchner
Bernard Kouchner is a bold choice by President Sarkozy
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has named socialist human rights campaigner Bernard Kouchner as foreign minister in a leaner, broad-based cabinet.

The Socialist Party immediately moved to distance itself from Mr Kouchner, saying he was no longer a member.

The new president fulfilled a pledge to improve the gender imbalance in French politics by appointing seven women.

Cabinet positions have been halved and some portfolios expanded, with Alain Juppe handling environment and energy.

The former French prime minister will also be in charge of transport and sustainable development as part of a new super-ministry.

Government of 'all talents'

The slimmer cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Francois Fillon, is part of Mr Sarkozy's plan to cut costs and make the French government more efficient.

The reduced number led to fierce competition for cabinet jobs.

Mr Kouchner is best-known for having founded the aid organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

The appointment of Mr Kouchner, who has also served in a socialist government, to a centre-right cabinet follows Mr Sarkozy's call for a "government of all the talents".

Prime Minister: Francois Fillon
Environment, Sustainable Development and Energy Minister: Alain Juppe
Foreign Minister: Bernard Kouchner
Economy, Finance and Employment Minister: Jean-Louis Borloo
Interior Minister: Michele Alliot-Marie
Justice Minister: Rachida Dati
Defence Minister: Herve Morin

The decision sparked anger among his former colleagues with Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande quoted by AFP news agency as saying that Mr Kouchner was no longer a member of the party.

But Mr Kouchner's pro-American line should fit in well with Mr Sarkozy's thinking, the BBC's Caroline Wyatt reports.

He was one of the few French politicians to support the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, on the grounds that it would topple Saddam Hussein.

Former Social Cohesion Minister Jean-Louis Borloo will manage the economy and employment in Prime Minister Fillon's team.

Mr Borloo faces the tough job of reducing France's high unemployment rate of 8.3% and pushing through tax cuts and labour market reforms, in line with Mr Sarkozy's promise of a "rupture" with the past.

Former Prime Minister Mr Juppe's return to office is a dramatic comeback for the senior Chirac ally who was given a suspended jail sentence for his role in a Paris city hall funding scandal.

As minister of state he is now the number two in the cabinet.

Women prominent

France will now have its first ethnic minority figure in a senior cabinet post, with Rachida Dati named as justice minister. She was Mr Sarkozy's campaign spokeswoman and has strongly backed his ideas on affirmative action to counter racial discrimination in the jobs market.

Francois Fillon and Nicolas Sarkozy
Prime Minister Fillon (left) managed Mr Sarkozy's election campaign

Former Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie goes to the interior ministry. She was a loyal follower of Mr Chirac and was the first woman to lead the governing UMP's right-wing predecessor, the Gaullist RPR party.

Former Trade Minister Christine Lagarde is going to agriculture - a key job, with world trade discussions going on and EU farming subsidies up for debate again soon.

The other women appointed include Culture Minister Christine Albanel, Health and Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot and Higher Education Minister Valerie Pecresse.

Defence has gone to centrist MP Herve Morin, who heads the UDF party in parliament.

The new Ministry of Immigration and National Identity will be headed by Mr Sarkozy's long-time friend and ally, Brice Hortefeux.

As if to prove this will be a more dynamic government, determined to act quickly, the first cabinet meeting is scheduled for Friday afternoon - after Mr Sarkozy has been to visit workers and trades unions at the troubled Airbus factory in Toulouse, our correspondent says.

A look at Sarkozy's new cabinet

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