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PRIME MINISTER REARRANGES HIS CABINET

SHARE PRIME MINISTER REARRANGES HIS CABINET

Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama reshuffled his Cabinet on Tuesday, retaining his key foreign, finance and trade ministers but naming an influential private researcher as his economic planning chief.

The reshuffle ended five days of haggling over whether Mura-yama's key allies - Yohei Kono of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Sakigake party head Masayoshi Takemura - should stay on as foreign and finance ministers respectively.In the end, Murayama successfully persuaded the two to keep their posts, enabling the embattled Socialist prime minister to preserve a delicate balance in his three-party coalition.

Trade minister Ryutaro Hash-i-moto, who successfully resolved a heated car dispute with the United States, also kept his job.

The reshuffle - Murayama's first - involved most government ministries but, with the key players still in place, fell far short of a fundamental revamp of the 13-month-old government in the wake of the coalition's poor performance in Upper House elections last month.

Murayama's only surprise appointment was new Economic Plan-ning Agency minister Isamu Miyazaki, a private researcher at the Daiwa Institute of Research.

He is the only non-politician in the new lineup.

Miyazaki's appointment was apparently part of Murayama's efforts to show his government was serious about propping up the sagging economy, which is struggling to pull out of a prolonged recession.

"The new Cabinet will take the issue of economic recovery seriously and stress the importance of reforms," new Chief Cabinet Secretary Koken Nosaka said after announcing the new lineup.

Nosaka said the Cabinet reshuffle was necessary because the outgoing Cabinet had already been in place for the usual length of time Japanese ministers stay in place.

Nosaka, Murayama's right-hand man in the Socialist party and the outgoing construction minister, also takes on the role of top government spokesman.

LDP secretary-general Yoshiro Mori got the job of new construction minister.