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Bangla Cabinet

Dhaka, May 22 (Reuters): Bangladesh Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia today cut the size of her Cabinet by dropping seven ministers and switching 11 others, state television said.

A government statement later said the seven ministers resigned, reducing the number of ministers to 53 from 60.

It was the first cabinet shake up since Khaleda came to power in October 2001 and ended months of speculation.

Bangladesh's foreign aid donors including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank had been asking for a cut in administrative costs, but it was not immediately clear if Khaleda acted on their advice.

Khaleda made the changes only weeks before her government was due to announce the budget for 2003-04 (July-June).

Ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party officials recently said the prime minister was looking at performance of each minister and would likely remove under-performers.

Those who resigned included:

Water Resources Minister .K. Siddiqui

Fisheries and Livestock Minister Sadek Hossain Khoka

Minister without portfolio Harunur Rashid Khan Munnu

State Minister for Liberation War Affairs Redwan Ahmed

State Minister for Disaster Management Ebadur Rahman Chowdhury

State Minister for Commerce M. Barkat Ullah Bhulu. Bhulu, however, was appointed adviser to the commerce ministry with the status of a state minister, the statement said.

State Minister for Post and Telecomunications M. Ahsanul Haque Mollah

(Additional reporting by Nizam Ahmed)

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