French PM Defends Cabinet Reshuffle

VOA News

February 28, 2011

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French Prime Minister Francois Fillon on Monday defended the government's reshuffle, saying former foreign minister Michele Alliot-Marie was replaced because she was endangering France's image worldwide.

Alliot-Marie had been heavily criticized for her handling of France's response to the uprising in Tunisia, a former French colony.

She also was seen as having links to businessmen tied to Tunisia's deposed leader, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. She was removed Sunday after only three months in office.

Fillon said the controversy surrounding the minister had become "dangerous" for the image of France and French diplomacy abroad.

Replacing Alliot-Marie is former defense minister Alain Juppe. The new defense minister is Gerard Longuet, a conservative senator.

Also out is France's minister of the interior, Brice Hortefeux, who is being replaced by President Nicolas Sarkozy's secretary general Claude Gueant.

Alliot-Marie tendered her resignation on Sunday. She had been France's first female foreign minister.

She also had drawn heavy censure for taking a vacation in Tunisia during the uprising that led to Mr. Ben Ali's ouster. In a letter to Mr. Sarkozy, Alliot-Marie insisted she had done nothing wrong.