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France awaits cabinet as new Prime Minister Valls takes office

France's new Prime Minister Manuel Valls has officially taken office, pledging to press ahead with reforms to revive the country's economy. Two Green ministers have already said they will not join his government.

In a handover ceremony, Valls praised his predecessor Jean-Marc Ayrault and said he would "keep working in the interest of the recovery of our country, our economy, our industry."

"It's about extending and building upon the enormous amount of work you have already done," Valls told Ayrault.

Valls was expected to name a new government on Wednesday, with sweeping changes expected to be made - particularly within the Finance Ministry, as the new government seeks to revive the economy.

Official data on Monday showed that the French public deficit between spending and revenue amounted to 4.3 percent of national economic output - above a maximum target of 4.1 percent.

"This is a trying, demanding, round-the-clock task but at the same time it is exhilarating," said Ayrault at the ceremony.

The Spanish-born Valls is viewed as the most right-leaning figure in the government under French President Francois Hollande. His predecessor Ayrault had been accused of not keeping his ministers in line and failing to convince voters that his government had been making the right economic decisions.

Need to unite party

Hollande

named Valls as Ayrault's successor

on Monday after municipal elections at the weekend that saw

Socialist Party (PS) mayors across the country lose their offices

to centrist conservatives and members of the far-right.

To keep the party behind him, Valls was expected to nominate at least some of the more left wing members of the party as cabinet members. Arnaud Montebourg, currently the minister for industrial renewal, was expected to be reappointed. The PS's 2007 presidential candidate, Segolene Royal - a former partner of Hollande - has been listed as one possible entry to the cabinet.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, among the more popular ministers in the Ayrault government, was expected to be renamed.

Valls is seen as divisive on the left of the political spectrum, with leftist PS members lobbying against his premiership. Two ministers from the Green party, which was a part of Ayrault's coalition, have said they will not be part of the new government.

rc/jr (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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