INTERNATIONAL: Raffarin strengthens his media team

PARIS: French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who was appointed to his post last May following the landslide victory by President Jacques Chirac, has boosted his team of PR advisers.

Vincent Fleurot, a former communications adviser to Gaullist party president Michele Alliot-Marie, has been hired as media adviser to the Prime Minister.

Also named to high-level media relations posts at Hotel Matignon - the Prime Minister's official residence - are Blandine de Volontat, who was previously communications director for the Fondation pour la Democracie en Europe (The European Democracy Foundation), and Lysiane Soubeyrand, who was a media adviser to Pierre Mehaignerie, a former government minister.

They join Francoise Miquel, who on 29 August was appointed head of the Service d'Information du Gouvernment (SIG), the government's principal official PR organisation, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister's office. She replaces Bernard Candiard, who had been appointed director of SIG by former Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

Earlier this summer, Raffarin had named Dominique Ambiel to be in overall charge of communications for the French government. The appointment met with much interest in France, as Ambiel had until then been known principally as a TV producer, notably as the president of Expand, one of France's largest production houses. Expand has produced a number of successful TV shows, including the French version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

- Former Bordeaux transport PRO Veronique Guillermot is set to head media relations at the French Foreign Affairs Ministry, where newly named Minister Dominique de Villepin is installing a team of communications staff.

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