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Malaysian PM announces new Cabinet

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi unveiled a streamlined 68-member Cabinet Tuesday, dropping half the ministers in his previous administration and keeping the crucial finance portfolio for himself.

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Malaysia's PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's National Front coalition lost big in national elections.

"My expectation is that they will perform better than before and I believe ... they are capable and they will be able to fulfill the [government's] agenda," he told reporters.

The new Cabinet was formed after the March 8 general elections in which Abdullah's ruling National Front coalition suffered a massive erosion of its two-thirds majority in Parliament.

It now has only 140 lawmakers in the 222-member Parliament, leaving Abdullah a smaller pool to appoint ministers. Abdullah's last Cabinet had 90 members.

The new Cabinet has 32 full ministers and 36 deputy ministers. Of the full ministers, only 17 were from the previous administration, and only five retained their former portfolios.

Abdullah also retained four ministerial positions for its coalition partner the Malaysian Chinese Association, and one for the Malaysian Indian Congress.

Among the major casualties was Minister of International Trade Rafidah Aziz, who was dropped from the Cabinet. She was replaced by Muhyiddin Yasin, who was the agriculture minister in the previous administration.

He refused to say why he dropped the firebrand Rafidah, who has successfully led many trade negotiations but has also faced accusations of corruption.

"She should also make way for someone new to take over MITI," Abdullah said.

Abdullah also appointed a minister to oversee reforms in the judiciary, which has come under attack in recent months for its cozy relationship with politicians and businesspeople

In another major change, Abdullah moved longtime Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar to the Home Ministry, which was merged with the Internal Security Ministry that was previously headed by the prime minister himself.

Abdullah reiterated that he has no intention of quitting despite the dismal election result.

"As far as I am concerned I am here. I have been given a mandate, a very strong mandate I believe. I am not the one who is going to shirk his responsibilities. It is my intention to continue," he said.

Abdullah said his previous administration made good plans and had visions of grand projects including development programs but was short on implementation.

"This term we have to emphasize on vigorous implementation of policies and programs," he said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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