The French President, Jacques Chirac, has called for national unity in France in a televised address following his country's overwhelming rejection of the EU constitution in a referendum on Sunday.

Mr Chirac said that the result had begun what he called a period of difficulties and uncertainties for France and the EU.

He said that tackling France's high unemployment rate, which stands at 10.2%, would be the top priority of the new government.

The full makeup of the new government is not expected to be announced until later this week by former Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin, who Mr Chirac appointed as the new Prime Minister earlier today.

However, Mr Chirac has already said that former finance minister and potential presidential rival Nicolas Sarkozy will feature in the new cabinet.

Mr De Villepin's appointment came after the resignation of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin was accepted this morning by Mr Chirac during a meeting in the Elysée Palace in Paris.

Mr Raffarin's unpopular economic reforms and poor record on jobs have been blamed in part for Sunday's No vote.

Mr de Villepin, a staunch Chirac loyalist, was the public face of France's opposition to the war in Iraq as the country's then foreign minister.

Meanwhile, the latest Dutch opinion poll shows that opposition to the constitution there has increased to 60%.

The Netherlands votes tomorrow in its first referendum in more than 200 years. Some 96% of those asked said they had not been influenced by the French result.