French president names new Cabinet


PARIS - President Jacques Chirac, under pressure to show results before next month's crucial legislative elections, named a conservative interim Cabinet yesterday, putting a steel magnate in charge of the economy and creating a powerful new security chief to get tough on crime.

The 21-member Cabinet, proposed by Chirac's new prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, was unveiled at the Elysee Palace two days after Chirac's landslide victory in the presidential runoff election over far-right leader Jean Marie Le-Pen.

To have any real power, though, Chirac must win a majority in the two-round legislative elections scheduled for June 9 and 16. By then, he must convince voters that he is ready to tackle their concerns about rising crime, job shortages and a general sense that members of the governing elite are out of touch with the people.

Chirac's choice of Cabinet ministers shows clear signs that he is trying to do just that.

In an unconventional move, he chose Francis Mer, chairman of the world's No. 1 steelmaker, Arcelor, as finance minister. Mer is considered a socially conscious figure who worked with labor unions to ease the pain of layoffs and to restructure the French steel industry in the 1990s.

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