World Bulletin/News Desk
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree to form a new government on Saturday, shaking up many cabinet posts but keeping the heads of the interior, defence and foreign ministries, state television reported.
The reappointment of Defence Minister Daoud Rajha will quash widespread rumours, previously denied by the government, that he had been assassinated by rebels who are struggling to bring down President Bashar al-Assad's rule.
The 16-month uprising, which has faced a brutal government crackdown, is increasingly being termed a civil war by foreign observers. Assad argues he is pursuing reforms even as he fights a revolt he says is led by foreign-backed militants.
But critics say Assad's appointment of Riyad Hijab as prime minister earlier in June was a sign the president was turning to hardline loyalists. Hijab formed the new government given Assad's approval, Syria TV said on Saturday.
Hijab, a former agriculture minister, is a committed member of Assad's Baath Party, which has ruled Syria for nearly four decades since his father Hafez al-Assad took power in 1970.
Most of the top government posts were given to Baathist loyalists. Critics consider the cabinet to be largely symbolic and say power in Syria remains in the hands of Assad and his close inner circle of family and security force elites.
The new cabinet follows a May 7 parliamentary election which Assad said was part of the path to reform but the opposition boycotted as a sham, insisting the president must step down.
Other than Rajha, the ministers to retain their post were Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaar and Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem.
Several new ministries were created in the new cabinet.
The moderate Qadri Jamil, a centrist who has said he is speaking both to the government and to rebels, was appointed minister of internal commerce and consumer protection. The post is newly formed and likely to be mostly ceremonial.
US Secretary of State says the Syrian crisis is 'deeply disturbing to everybody in the world'
Park Geun-Hye in Tehran as the first South Korean president to visit Iran since the two countries established diplomatic relations
Two leaders discuss latest regional developments, express hope for stepped-up bilateral ties
Response to ISIL rocket attacks on Kilis, southern Turkey, targets terror group's facilities in northern Aleppo
'We're getting closer to a place of understanding, but we have some work to do, and that's why we're here,' US Secretary of State says
Interior ministry denies police stormed union building but confirms arrest of two opposition-linked journalists.
A new allow passed in Iran will allow for the granting of Iranian citizenship for those who dies while fighting for Iran
Air strikes on opposition-held east Aleppo hit in the early hours of Monday with no immediate reports of casualties
'For the first time we have 18 women in parliament, and it is a record that makes us very happy,' Iranian president says
'We have decided to suspend direct talks with the rebels to protest continuing violations of the ceasefire,' a Yemeni government official says
Military sources say at least two ISIL militants die in drone-strike operation launched from Turkey
FSA stops Democratic Union Party (PYD) terrorist group from making advances in beleaguered city despite regime support for the latter
Moderates make gains over conservatives, winning 35 seats, local media says
The latest round of attacks on Syria has compelled Qatar to request an emergency meeting to discuss the air raids on Aleppo
The Assad regime – with Russian support – has continued to target opposition-held areas of Syria's northwestern Aleppo province with fresh strikes killing 7 people
Key issues will be discussed in face to face peace talks between Yemen's warring parties