January 14, 2010 / 5:40 PM / 10 years ago

Tunisian president reshuffles government

Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali is seen before France's President Nicolas Sarkozy's departure ceremony at Tunis airport April 30, 2008. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen/Pool

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has appointed new finance, defence and foreign affairs ministers in a major reshuffle of his government, the official TAP news agency reported on Thursday.

Ben Ali made a total of 11 ministerial changes in the reshuffle, with other appointments including a new minister for tourism — a crucial portfolio in a North African country which earns much of its revenue from foreign visitors.

The changes in the government were widely expected since 73-year-old Ben Ali, who has been in office for 23 years, usually announces a reshuffle after he is elected to a new term.

Ben Ali was elected to a fifth term in October last year with 89.62 percent of the vote, according to official figures.

Most senior ministers have been reassigned to new ministerial posts in the incoming cabinet, though the outgoing foreign minister Abd El Waheb Abdullah, a close ally of the president for many years, leaves the government.

Tunisia’s influential Interior Minister, Rafik Bel Haj Kacem, and Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi both keep their jobs.

The new cabinet includes six people who have not previously held ministerial posts. The newcomers include the new Finance Minister, Mohamed Ridha Chalghoum.

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