Fifteen new ministers entered the new cabinet on Saturday, which however will continue to be headed by Abdul-Qader Bagammal, the prime minister.

The reshuffle comes in advance of presidential elections scheduled for September, Aljazeera said.

Bagammal said on Saturday he kept his post in spite of expectations that he would be replaced after his election as secretary-general of the ruling party in December.

Among 15 new ministers, Saleh gave the defence portfolio to
newcomer Mohammad Nasser. Ali Saif Mahyoub Al-Aasali was
appointed finance minister and Khaled Mahfodh Ba-Haj became oil minister.

Eight existing ministers remained in the cabinet but swapped portfolios.

The planning portfolio was given to Abdul-Karim al-Arhabi, the former labour minister.

Reassignment

Saleh assigned the position of deputy prime minister to Rshad al-Alimi, the current interior minister.

Most of the cabinet members were from the ruling General People's Congress chaired by Saleh.

An official said the reshuffle was in response to calls to fight corruption and stimulate reform in the poor Arab state.

Yemen is struggling to prevent
the collapse of its economy

"The change came to introduce further economic reform in response to internal and foreign pressure from donor countries and institutions," said the official, who did not wish to be
identified.

Yemen, an oil producer with declining resources, has a foreign debt of about $5.2 billion and is struggling to prevent the collapse of a debt-ridden economy with high unemployment and poverty.

According to World Bank figures, more than 42% of Yemen's population live below the poverty line, illiteracy is about 50% and unemployment is more than 20%.

Opposition parties have repeatedly called for a crackdown on corruption and high state spending, which they blame for the
economic problems.