Syria’s Assad forms new cabinet after protests


Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad formed a new government on Thursday, state news agency SANA said, in a move to appease protesters calling for reforms.

The new government is headed by Adel Safar who served as agriculture minister in the government of Naji al-Otari which resigned on March 29, more than a week after protests broke out in the southern city of Deraa and spread to other parts of the country. Reuters


Assad retained veteran diplomat Walid al-Moualem as foreign minister

The government has little power in Syria, where the executive and judiciary have been sidelined under 48 years of monolithic Baath party rule. Power is held firmly by the Assad family and the security apparatus.

Oil Minister Sufian Alao and Telecoms Minister Imad Sabouni retained their positions. Assad’s cousin Rami Makhlouf, who rose to mega tycoon status in Syria after Assad came to power 11 years ago, has big businesses in the two sectors.

Assad appointed intelligence operative Ibrahim al-Shaar as interior minister and Mohammad al-Jililati, head of the tiny Damascus Stock Exchange, as finance minister, according to the official government list.

Adnan Mahmoud, head of the state’s official news agency, replaced Mohsen Bilal, Syria’s former ambassador to Spain, as information minister.

Independent and opposition figures said any genuine move to lift severe restrictions on freedoms would require an effective executive branch and independent judiciary to replace a powerless government structure dominated by the Baath Party.