Syria’s Assad Names New PM

Posted June 6th, 2012 at 5:25 am (UTC-5)
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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has appointed the agriculture minister from his outgoing Cabinet as the country's new prime minister

Wednesday state television said Mr. Assad had asked Riad Farid Hijab to form a government, marking the next step of what the president has called a political reform process.

Syria's parliamentary election on May 7 was also part of that process.

But Syrian opposition activists said few people voted in the towns and villages at the center of the 15-month uprising against Mr. Assad's rule. None of the rebellion's opposition groups participated in the election for parliament, which has been dominated by Mr. Assad's ruling Baath party for decades.

Activists reported heavy fighting between government and opposition forces in western Syria's Latakia province on Tuesday. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the battles killed at least 15 government soldiers and three rebel fighters.

In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said prospects for ending Syria's violence were bleak. Speaking Tuesday, Prince Saud al-Faisal said Gulf Arab states have “begun to lose hope” that a cease-fire mediated by international envoy Kofi Annan could help.

The rebel Free Syrian Army said Monday it is no longer bound by the April truce deal because of repeated government violations. Damascus denies violating the cease-fire and blames the rebels for continued fighting.

Also Tuesday, a senior U.N. aid official said Syria agreed to allow U.N. and international agencies to expand humanitarian operations in battered areas of the country.