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Indian PM names new deputy

Vajpayee (L) with Advani
Vajpayee (L) with Advani  

NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has named Home Minister L.K. Advani as his new deputy prime minister as part of a reorganization of his cabinet.

Advani has recently taken a larger role in government decision-making amid reports of Vajpayee's failing health. In addition to formalizing the unofficial duties he has taken on, the move puts Advani first in the line of succession.

Among other expected changes to be announced Monday, Jaswant Singh, the minister of external affairs, will trade jobs with Yashwant Sinha, the ministry of finance, sources said.

The selection of a new finance minister is seen as an effort to bring India's economy out of its doldrums.

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Vajpayee's plan to reorganize his ministers is in an advanced stage, the sources said. The announcement will be made after the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gains the agreement from other coalition members, which is expected to take place over the weekend, the sources said.

The reshuffle is also seen as an attempt to boost the BJP's standing and comes before several elections, including one this fall. In recent months, the BJP has suffered a string of losses at the polls.

Meanwhile, Vajpayee said Friday he does not see any possibility of war with Pakistan, but remains to be convinced that incursions by Islamic militants will stop permanently.

Commenting on relations with Pakistan, the Indian leader said he had doubts President General Pervez Musharraf would keep promises to permanently halt militant incursions into Indian-controlled Kashmir. (Vajpayee rules out war)

However, despite such concerns and the fact that more than one million troops remain positioned along the Indian and Pakistani frontlines, he said tensions had eased considerably and he foresaw "no possibility of war with Pakistan."

Vajpayee's comments came shortly after one of the main Islamic militant groups in the disputed state of Kashmir, the Hezbul Muhahedeen, vowed to continue attacks against Indian security forces. (Full story)

-- CNN Producers Ram Ramgopal and Suhasini Haidar contributed to this report.




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