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.
Head of the Labour-led Zionist Union coalition said he still wants a two-state solution, bu does not believe it's achievable in present circumstances
A monitor reports on devastating deadly impact of Assad regime's offensive in the northern province
Russia's ambassador to Damascus shares his estimates on the number of Russian citizens living in Syria
Explosives, suicide belts have been found on suspects at Syria border
According to the Defense Intelligence Chief, the Russian support has given Assad a much better position to negotiate with world powers
Syrians recount how their life has changed under the brutal shelling of strikes in Aleppo
'2015 was by and large a decent year for news on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,' International Institute for Strategic Studies chief says
State-run television says a 'number of citizens' were killed and injured
'The fact that the Guardian Council added over 1,400 to the approved list shows the efficiency of the government's follow-ups and consultations,' interior ministry says
Two separate trials have been opened in UAE against 26 people in total over suspected links to Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah armed groups
UN refugee agency wants Turkey to open its borders to the Syrians fleeing from Aleppo
'We have discussed the potential value of a special operations capability inside that element, which would be valuable,' Saudi foreign minister says
Forces loyal to Hadi lay siege Aden's central Mansura district and clashed with militants, while coalition Apache helicopters provided air cover
The proposal, denounced by critics as likely to encourage a witch-hunt against leftist groups that campaign for the defence of Palestinian rights, passed nonetheless following a tense debate
FM Steinmeier is to host meeting on Thursday of foreign ministers from US, Russia and regional powers, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey
Footage showing Egypt president's convoy driving over several kilometres of red carpet sparks outrage on social media