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.
"Police forces have dismantled a band of six persons and seized 100,000 fake visas for Arbaeen" which this year falls on November 9, Tehran's police chief Hossein Rahimi said.
Israel advances plans for first new settler homes in Hebron in 15 years
Kuwait continues to play mediating role between Qatar and Saudi-led bloc of Arab states
"The Qatari regime has honoured me by freezing all my bank accounts," Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al-Thani tweeted.
Trump's virulent speech contravened three articles of the 2015 deal, Zarif said in televised remarks broadcast late on Saturday.
Over 20 worshippers killed when Christian anti-Balaka militia broke into mosque in southeastern CAR during Friday prayers
Netanyahu late Saturday lashed out at the police on his Facebook page over leaks to the Israeli media related to the graft investigation.
Warning comes ahead of planned rally by so-called 'Southern Transition Council' demanding separation of southern Yemen
King’s Salman's visit, if anything, has become an acknowledgement of Russia's return to the Middle East
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano says 'So far, the IAEA has had access to all locations it needed to visit'
"The assailants fled and many were killed and wounded," he said, without giving further details.
Egypt-backed reconciliation deal will make Israel-Palestine peace ‘harder to achieve’, Benjamin Netanyahu asserts
Military says soldiers will establish observation posts to reinforce cease-fire