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New French PM Announces Cabinet

Dominique de Villepin
France's new prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, Thursday announced his new government.

The new French leader confirmed that Nicolas Sarkozy is returning as interior minister, a post he left last year.  Former Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy is taking over the foreign affairs portfolio, replacing Michel Barnier. Among ministers retaining their posts are Michele Alliot-Marie at defense and Thierry Breton at finance. 

Mr. Chirac named Mr. de Villepin prime minister Tuesday to replace Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who resigned after voters Sunday rejected the new European Union constitution.

Meanwhile, a 36-hour strike by rail workers presented Mr. de Villepin with his first challenge.  The walkout reduced service by 60 percent, cutting deeply into commuter and suburban traffic around Paris

The strikers are demanding better pay and jobs, and protection of the country's public services.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.

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