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Saddam Hussein shuffled his Cabinet Saturday amid a nationwide rebellion against his rule but kept in place his hard-line ministers of interior and defense to direct a crackdown on dissent.

Saddam gave up the job of prime minister but remains as president, head of the ruling Iraqi branch of the Arab Socialist Baath Party and chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, which effectively runs the country.The government shake-up followed claims by Kurdish and Shiite Muslim reb-els that rioting in the north and south had intensified and spread to the capital, Baghdad.

In a sign of efforts to return to normal life, the Iraqi news agency said primary, secondary and some other schools reopened on Saturday in Baghdad and unspecified provinces. Schools had been closed since the outbreak of war in mid-January.

The installation of the new 24-member Cabinet came in a presidential decree signed by Saddam and released by the official Iraqi News Agency.

The move came a week after the beleaguered president promised his nation democratic reforms after nearly 12 years of autocratic rule.

Saddam appointed Saadoun Hammadi, a member of the nation's Shiite Muslim majority, as prime minister, a post Saddam himself held since he became president in July 1979.

Hammadi is a native of Karbala, a focus of the Shiite Muslim unrest in the south. Regarded as an advocate of political reform, he pressed for compromise with Iran before the war with the neighboring country ended in 1988.

His appointment to the post appeared tobe an attempt to appease the Shiites, who make up 55 percent of Iraq's 17 million people.

The Iraqi News Agency reported late Saturday that Hammadi toured the Shiite holy city of Najaf, one of the sites of rebellion, and urged local officials to repair damage caused by the fighting.

Tariq Aziz, a Christian, lost his post as foreign minister but stayed on as a deputy prime minister.

Despite being relieved of his duties, Aziz traveled to Jordan on Saturday for talks with King Hussein. State-run Jordan Radio said Aziz delivered a message from Saddam about "developments in Iraq and plans for reconstruction."

The new foreign minister is Ahmad Hussein Khudayyir al-Sammaraei; he had been chief of the president's office.

Among the ministers who kept their posts were Interior Minister Ali Hasan al-Majid, a cousin of Saddam; Defense Minister Saadi Tuma Abbas; and Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel Hassan, minister of military industrialization and industry and acting oil minister.

Al-Majid is known as the "butcher of the Kurds" because he ordered the attack on the Kurdish town of Halabjah in March 1988 in which thousands of people reportedly died from chemical-weapons attacks.

Abbas, the defense minister, is the former commander of the Republican Guard.