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Aznar names new Spanish government

By GILES TREMLETT

MADRID, May 5 -- Newly appointed Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar formed a government Sunday he described as 'both centrist and reformist.' Aznar, head of the center-right Popular Party, took over from Socialist Felipe Gonzalez, 54, who had been prime minister for 13 years. The 43-year-old Aznar appointed a youthful government that included, for the first time in Spain, four women among the 14 ministers. Aznar named Francisco Alvarez Cascos, 48, first deputy prime minister and Rodrigo Rato, 47, second deputy prime minister. Alvarez Cascos also was named minister in charge of the Prime Minister's Office and was set to become the most powerful member of the new government team -- working closely with Aznar and coordinating the other ministries. Rato, who negotiated the agreement with Catalonia's regionalist Convergence and Union coalition that allowed Aznar to form his minority government, also was named Finance Minister. Abel Matutes, 54, a deputy in the European parliament and a former European Union commissioner, was named foreign minister. Javier Mayor Oreja, 44, the Popular Party's regional leader in the northern Basque country, became interior minister and will oversee the fight against armed Basque separatist group ETA. New Defense Minister Eduardo Serra, Industry Minister Josep Pique and Justice Minister Margarita Mariscal were not career politicians or members of his Popular Party. 'It is a government that I would define as both centrist and reformist,' Aznar said Sunday after he had moved into the prime minister's Moncloa Palace residence. Aznar emphasized that his government's main objective was to control government spending and limit the public deficit to 4.4 percent this year and 3.0 percent next year.

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'Any other policies will be subordinated to controlling spending and fighting the deficit,' he said. Aznar said he would meet with trade union and business leaders shortly to discuss strategies for boosting employment. He said he would also meet Gonzalez, who remains in Parliament as head of the opposition, to talk about the European Union. Aznar said the new government would meet for the first time on Tuesday in order to agree on the new administration's program and decide on emergency measures to trim government. 'There will be an important reduction in the number of senior positions,' Aznar said. Aznar took two months to form his minority government after the Popular Party won a narrow victory in March 3 elections. The new prime minister needed that time to ensure the support of Convergence and Union, which holds the balance of power in Parliament. His agreement with Convergence and Union was based on increased government decentralization and greater powers over taxes for the country's 17 regional governments. Aznar has also promised widespread privatization and deregulation of telecommunications, energy, transportation and real estate. The Popular Party has 156 of the 350 seats in Parliament. It is supported by 16 deputies from Convergence and Union, five deputies from the Basque Nationalist Party and four deputies from the Canary Island Coalition. The other members of the new government named Sunday were: Public Works Minister Rafael Salgado, Education and Culture Minister Esperanza Aguirre, Labour and Social Affairs Minister Javier Arenas, Agriculture Minister Loyola de Palacio, Public Administration Minister Mariano Rajoy, Health Minister Jose Manuel Romay and Environment Minister Isabel Tocino.

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