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.
Turkmen factions have launched a ground offiensive and have made noticable advances against Assad regime forces
Israeli Foreign Ministry director visits United Arab Emirates' capital Adu Dhabi to finalize opening of mission
Five people are killed when Russian warplanes strike targets in opposition-held area of Syria's northwestern Idlib province
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Saudi Arabia has long been deeply suspicious of Hezbollah, a close ally of its regional rival Iran
Thousands of Turkmen reportedly displaced by ongoing assaults by regime and Russian warplanes in Syria's predominantly-Turkmen Bayirbucak region
A dozen people killed in separate bombings and shooting attacks across war-torn Iraq, local sources report
'Next week, I expect to provide my final assessment on all past and present outstanding issues,' International Atomic Energy Agency head Yukiya Amano says
Syrian Network for Human Rights says 20,000 women have been killed in the Syrian conflict, wıth almost 95 percent of them by Assad regime
Regime offensive comes one day after Turkmen fighters retook control of Kizildag town
Russian planes have carried out at least 12 strikes in the area where Turkey downed their fighter jet
The second pilot who ejected from the fighter jet shot by Turkish forces has been picked up by the Syrian army
Sources report that first pilot was killed by opposition forces who shot at him as he landed after ejecting from the plane
Turkish reports say incident happened in border area between Turkey's southern Hatay province and an area in northwest Syria populated by the Turkic-speaking Turkmen minority
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Turkey has condemned the ruthless attacks by Russia and have sent a letter to the UN expressing grave concern about attacks in Bayirbucak Turkmen area in northwestern Syria