Austria's new chancellor announces Cabinet picks from his party

Austria's new center-left chancellor announced his party's Cabinet picks Wednesday, wrapping up the lineup of ministers in a "grand coalition" government forged three months after hotly contested elections.

Social Democratic Party chief Alfred Gusenbauer, who will be sworn in as chancellor on Thursday along with the new Cabinet, appointed longtime party official Norbert Darabos as defense minister.

Darabos' first challenge will be to find a way to bring down the cost of a Ђ1.95 billion (US$2.5 billion) contract to buy 18 Eurofighter jets. The Social Democrats campaigned on a pledge to cancel the deal, which was signed under outgoing Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel's government and triggered a public outcry.

Gusenbauer selected Maria Berger, a member of the European Parliament, as justice minister and tapped Erwin Buchinger, a senior official in the province of Salzburg, to run the social affairs ministry.

Rounding out the new chancellor's lineup was Claudia Schmied as minister of education, arts and culture; Doris Bures, a fierce critic of Schuessel's administration, as women's affairs minister; and Werner Faymann, who heads an agency overseeing Vienna's main public buildings, as infrastructure minister.

"I want to be captain of a federal government that's a team made up of personalities from the two different parties," Gusenbauer told state radio.

On Tuesday, Schuessel's rival center-right People's Party filled the slots it will hold in the key finance, foreign, interior, economy, health, agriculture and science ministries.

The division of ministries sprang from intense negotiations between Austria's two largest political parties talks that bogged down for weeks after the Social Democrats narrowly won Oct. 1 parliamentary elections.

Some Social Democrats including university students, the head of the country's influential trade union federation and a few veteran party leaders contend the bloc too hastily surrendered control of key ministries to Schuessel's People's Party. Socialist youth organizations staged a small but boisterous protest outside parliament Tuesday.

Schuessel said Wilhelm Molterer, who was the People's Party's parliamentary leader in the previous government, will become finance minister and vice chancellor. He replaces Karl-Heinz Grasser, the former finance minister, who is quitting politics to return to the private sector.

Molterer will also become the People's Party's new chairman, replacing Schuessel.

Schuessel, Austria's chancellor since 2000, will not play a major part in the new government, opting instead for the relatively low-profile role as party leader in parliament, reports AP.

Ursula Plassnik will stay on as the country's foreign minister and Guenther Platter, the country's former defense minister, will head the Interior Ministry.

Martin Bartenstein will remain economics minister and Andrea Kdolsky will become the new health minister, replacing Maria Rauch-Kallat.

Josef Proell will stay on as agriculture minister. Johannes Hahn will be the new science minister.

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