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.
'Nikki Haley, the blood is on your hands!', one student shouted during her speech at a Texas university
Israel's West Bank settlements are illegal under international law and are bitterly opposed by Palestinians.
In a joint statement, the G7 leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States, along with the European Union, said they "are united in rejecting the electoral process" that led to the May 20 ballot.
An Iraqi refugee baby died as Belgian police was chasing a vehicle carrying illegal migrants
'If it doesn’t happen, maybe it will happen later,' American president says
Haidar al-Abadi says agreement reached with winning coalition bloc
Controversial picture of Haram al-Sharif circulates on social media
International court responds to Palestinian foreign minister's request
Lava flows from Kilauea destroy warehouse at major geothermal plant while others reach Pacific Ocean
Jafar Farah was arrested in Haifa last weekend after taking part in pro-Gaza demonstration
ISIL terrorists, Iraqi forces exchange blows south of Mosul, according to local security source
Restrictions on movement of patients, medicines are 'illegal, inhumane and unacceptable': Health Ministry official
US will do anything to prevent Iran's 'malicious activities' in region, Pentagon spokesman says
Since March 30, more than 110 Palestinians were killed by Israeli gunfire in Gaza
Mahmoud Abbas visits hospital three times in one week, raising speculation about state of his health