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UK's Ruling Coalition Begins Work

Britain's first coalition government since 1945 has begun setting out its main policy goals, with tackling the country's record budget deficit high on the agenda.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (L) and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg wave on the steps of 10 Downing Street in London May 12, 2010. (REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton) David Cameron, the new prime minister, welcomed his coalition partner Nick Clegg outside his residence at 10 Downing Street in London on Wednesday, marking the formal beginning of their power-sharing agreement.

Cameron has promised that the alliance will be a "full and proper" coalition between the two parties.

The Liberal Democrats, who came third in last week's inconclusive election, have been given a number of cabinet seats, with Clegg taking the role of deputy prime minister.

"This is going to be hard and difficult work. A coalition will throw up all sorts of challenges," Cameron said in his first speech as prime minister.

"But I believe together we can provide that strong and stable government that our country needs."

The new government is expected to immediately begin tackling Britain's record $236bn deficit, with the European Union highlighting the need for "common responses" to economic crises.

'Structural reforms'

George Osborne, the new finance minister, said the government planned "long-term structural reforms of the banking system, of education and of welfare so that we have an economy that works for everyone".

The coalition was formed after no party managed to gain a clear parliamentary majority in the May 6 election.

But Cameron, whose party won the most seats in the poll, announced his party would be joining forces with the Liberal Democrats after Gordon Brown resigned from his post as prime minister on Tuesday evening.

Brown stood down after Labour failed to clinch a deal with the Liberal Democrats.

Alan Fisher, Al Jazeera's correspondent in London, said the power-sharing agreement was the work of five days of intense negotiations.

"The Liberal Democrats will be full partners in the coalition with seats in the cabinet, and more power than the election results perhaps suggested," he said.

Cabinet posts

A number of cabinet positions have already been announced, with more to come later on Wednesday. 

William Hague, a former Conservative leader, will serve as foreign minister and Liam Fox will be the defence minister.

Theresa May, who had been shadow work and pensions secretary, has been appointed as interior minister.

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrats economic spokesman, will become the government's banking minister and Chris Huhne, another Liberal Democrat MP, will take on the role of environment secretary.

Markets had been impatient to see an end to the uncertainty thrown up by last week's election and Britain's sterling currency rose against the dollar and the euro as Cameron spoke.

But some in the finance industry have expressed doubts about Osborne, an untested cabinet minister, becoming chancellor at a time when the economy is emerging from the worst recession since the Second World War.

EU concerns

Barack Obama, the US president, was one of the first world leaders to congratulate Cameron on his appointment, affirming the two countries' "special relationship".

The leaders of Germany and France also congratulated the new prime minister, while the European Commission underlined the need for common responses to economic challenges in a congratulatory note to Cameron.

Many European leaders are wary of the prime minister's centre-right Conservatives coming to power because they are more hostile to the 27-country European Union than the outgoing Labour party.

Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the EU executive, said Cameron's government faced difficult choices in difficult times but he was confident it would chart the right course to steer Britain out of crisis and towards sustainable growth.

Cameron is widely expected to want to show more eurosceptic members of his party that he will defend Britain's interests strongly in the EU.

But the new government could face internal problems over Europe, as Clegg, once a member of the European parliament, has long been a supporter of the EU.

 Source: Al Jazeera and agencies
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