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Published: Wednesday March 26, 2014 MYT 9:16:50 PM
Updated: Wednesday March 26, 2014 MYT 9:18:42 PM

Tunisian PM postpones Paris trip amid French reshuffle talk

Tunisia's Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa (R) shakes hands with European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fule in Tunisia March 14, 2014. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

Tunisia's Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa (R) shakes hands with European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fule in Tunisia March 14, 2014. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia's new prime minister has postponed a visit to France next week, his spokesman said on Wednesday, amid growing speculation French President Francois Hollande will begin reshuffling his cabinet once local elections are over.

Mehdi Jomaa had been due to meet Hollande and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on Monday and Tuesday in a long-planned trip to boost bilateral and economic relations.

However, with voters already punishing Hollande's Socialist party in the first round of town hall votes last Sunday and more losses expected in the runoff ballot this Sunday, Hollande is expected to quickly respond with a cabinet reshuffle.

"Yes, the visit to France is postponed," Jomaa's spokesman Abd Essalem Zbidi said.

He declined to comment on whether it was because of the political situation in France.

Two French officials speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed the visit had been put off.

Highlighting sensitivities within the French government, the presidential palace denied the visit had been postponed.

The prime minister's office referred all enquiries to the foreign ministry, which traditionally does not handle communication for prime ministerial visits. The foreign ministry declined to comment.

(Reporting By Tarek Amara and John Irish and Elizabeth Pineau in Paris; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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