Samoa's new prime minister seeks to install cabinet on Tuesday

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MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Samoa's first female prime minister, Fiame Naomi Mataafa, said on Saturday her government would formally take office next week, a day after the country's Court of Appeal affirmed her government was legal.

In her first comments to the media following the court's decision, Mataafa said parliament would meet at the earliest opportunity next week to pass a temporary budget to keep the government running, giving her and her cabinet time to review the country's financial and economic circumstances.

"Cabinet will formally take office on Tuesday next week on an expected smooth transition with the outgoing caretaker government," Mataafa told reporters after meeting with key officials.

Samoa, which relies on subsistence farming along with tourism and fish and coconut product exports, has had to depend on foreign aid and is heavily indebted to China, which offered to back a port development by the previous government.

Fiame told Reuters in May she would shelve the Beijing-backed port development, calling the $100 million project excessive for a small country already deep in debt.

The Pacific country's politics descended into crisis this year after the incumbent, China-friendly prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, refused to give way after losing a parliamentary election in April that ended his 22 years in power.

"My administration is committed to returning this country to the special place dreamt of by our forefathers, when they grabbed the mantle of independence almost 60 years ago," Mataafa said.

(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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