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.
More than 300 of the deaths reported last month were registered in violence-wracked Baghdad alone
Israel PM says he’s ready to resume negotiations with Palestinians; PLO’s Erekat calls assertion ‘hollow public-relations talk’
In recent weeks, several opponents of Egyptian regime have died in prison
Labour reform was initiated after criticism by rights campaigners regarding treatment of migrant workers
Gunmen killed two Yemenis working for International Committee of the Red Cross north of capital Sanaa
Army claims tunnels used in militant activities inside Sinai
Many Egyptian restaurants, resorts discriminate women who chose to wear a veil
Secret US operation will be targeted at assassinating ISIL leaders
US-based watchdog accuses all warring sides of abusing both civilians, fighters
18 Turkish workers working on the olympic stadium have been kidnapped by masked men in Baghdad
Nuclear deal signed in July apparently does not change Iran's stance with regard to US
Wars and economic blockade have wiped out capacity to produce for domestic or export market while leaving ‘almost all of population destitute’, says UN body
According to UN rights official, 2,112 Yemeni civilians were killed between March 26 and Aug. 27
Self-proclaimed Jewish state arrests father of 12-year-old Palestinian boy beaten on Friday by Israeli soldier
Over same period, 5 Palestinians were killed by Israeli authorities, 230 assaulted by Jewish settlers, report finds
Women will account for more than one fifth of parliamentary candidates in country's Oct. 3 elections