Fatima al-Blushi, an education professor at Bahrain University, was named by royal decree to the cabinet in the tiny Gulf monarchy, which only granted women the right to vote in 2001.

She will join Nada Hafidh, who holds the health portfolio.

The governor of Bahrain's central bank, Shaikh Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Khalifa, was named minister of finance and national economy, replacing Abd Allah Hassan Saif.

Saif was named economic adviser under Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa.

The state minister for foreign affairs, Muhammad Abd al-Ghaffar Abd Allah, was named information minister. He replaces Nabil al-Hamr, who becomes information adviser to King Hamad - a post he held before his nomination to the cabinet in the last reshuffle in April 2001.

'Positive step'

The minister of municipalities and agriculture, Muhammad Ali Sitri, was named justice minister. Former commerce minister Ali Salah al-Salah will replace him.

The ministries of industry and commerce were merged and put under the leadership of Hassan Fakkhru, who was minister of industry ahead of the reshuffle.

"This is a positive step because it removed some old faces,"
Shaikh Ali Salman of the opposition Al Wifaq Islamic Society
said.

"But these changes took place without consulting parliament. We would also have liked to see the numbers of royals in the cabinet decreased."