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France names ex-PM as new foreign minister

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This combination of pictures created on February 11, 2016 shows Jean-Marc Ayrault (L) and Laurent Fabius. (AFP)

French President Francois Hollande has appointed former Premier Jean-Marc Ayrault as the new head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs amid a major cabinet reshuffle.

Ayrault, a 66-year old veteran of the Socialist party who was prime minister from 2012-14, was appointed foreign minister on Thursday to replace Laurent Fabius who resigned on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Fabius, 69, is expected to take up a position as head of France’s constitutional court, which ensures bills comply with the constitution.

Fabius has been seen as the architect of France's tough foreign policy under President Hollande in recent years.  

On Wednesday, the French foreign minister questioned the US and its allies’ commitment to resolving the crisis in Syria. “There are the ambiguities including among the actors of the coalition … I’m not going to repeat what I’ve said before about the main pilot of the coalition,” Fabius said, adding, “But we don’t have the feeling that there is a very strong commitment that is there.” 

Former French foreign minister Laurent Fabius waves as he leaves the Elysee palace following the weekly cabinet meeting on February 10, 2016. (AFP photo)

Meanwhile, the French president has also named the leader of the French Green Party (EELV), Emmanuelle Cosse, as housing minister. Barbara Pompili and Jean-Vincent Placé, two dissident EELV lawmakers also joined the government as secretaries of state.

Most other key portfolios were unchanged and retain their positions. 

The reshuffle has been seen by many as a bid to widen his political base ahead of next year’s presidential elections.

The developments also come as beleaguered French president is suffering a fresh drop in popularity and deep discontent within his party over contested plans to strip French citizenship from people convicted of terrorism.

The constitutional amendments introduced following the deadly terror attacks in Paris will strip convicted terrorists of their French nationality. It will also give security forces greater powers and extend the state of emergency for another three months. A series of coordinated terror attacks by the Takfiri Daesh terrorists killed about 130 people in the French capital last November.

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