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France names finance minister to replace Lagarde

By Greg Keller

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, June 29 2011 9:51 a.m. MDT

France's Finance Minister Christine, left, Lagarde, center, and Budget Minister Francois Baroin, right, share a light moment during a session at the French National Assembly in Paris, Wednesday, June 29, 2011. Lagarde has been chosen to lead the International Monetary Fund. She will become the first female managing director of the global lending organization.

Michel Euler, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

PARIS — French President Nicolas Sarkozy named Francois Baroin as the new finance minister on Wednesday to replace Christine Lagarde, who takes the top job at the International Monetary Fund next week.

Currently budget minister and government spokesman, Baroin inherits the task of working with other European finance ministers to find a solution to the debt crisis afflicting the eurozone.

Baroin, 46, has long been considered a loyalist of former President Jacques Chirac. In the Budget Ministry for little over a year, he has not had time to make a major mark. He helped pilot a reform of France's wealth tax in a bid to appease his conservative UMP party's traditionally wealthier electorate.

Divorced with three children, Baroin entered parliament in 1993.

He was Chirac's spokesman in his first victorious presidential campaign in 1995. Baroin's father, a close friend of Chirac, died in a plane crash in Cameroon when Baroin was 22, and Chirac took his friend's son under his wing, encouraging him to go into politics. In 2008, Baroin said he "owes everything" to Chirac.

Lagarde's replacement led to a relatively minor government shakeup, less than a year ahead of the country's next presidential elections.

Baroin's position at the budget ministry will be taken over by Valerie Pecresse, who comes from the ministry for higher education. She will also take over as government spokesperson.

Among several other changes in the cabinet, the former deputy minister for European affairs, Laurent Wauquiez, takes over for Pecresse as minister for higher education.

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