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French Foreign Minister Fabius to leave government

The French president's office has said Hollande plans to nominate Laurent Fabius to head the country's Constitutional Council. Hollande is expected to announce a more extensive cabinet reshuffle in the coming days.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Wednesday that he was stepping down from his position in the government, confirming rumors of his departure.

"I will be leaving office," Fabius said in response to reporters' questions on whether Wednesday's cabinet meeting would be his last.

The Elysee Palace issued a statement soon after saying that French President Francois Hollande envisions nominating the 69-year-old Fabius, who was France's youngest prime minister when he assumed office in 1984, to head the country's Constitutional Counsel. The counsel is charged with checking whether proposed French statutes conform with the country's constitution, prior to them receiving the president's signature.

The outgoing foreign minister is known for playing a key role in a deal with Iran that curbed the Islamic Republic's nuclear program in exchange for ending international sanctions.

He also helped broker a historic deal on climate change in Paris in November.

Fabius said that a full cabinet reshuffle would likely be announced before the end of the week.

Environment Minister Segolene Royal, a former presidential candidate and Hollande's ex-partner, is among those tipped as Fabius' successor, along with the president's former prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

With presidential elections slated for 2017, Hollande is seeking to boost his approval ratings amid strong discontent among members of his Socialist party.

Hollande, who witnessed his approval ratings drop to 33 percent last year, is attempting to shore up support for counterterrorism legislation and constitutional changes he announced following the November 2015 attacks claimed by the "Islamic State" militant group that left 130 people dead and hundreds more injured in Paris.

The legislation is expected to pass the lower house before meeting more firm opposition in the Senate.

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ls/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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