Syria gets new cabinet

The Syrian Prime Minister has announced a new cabinet but has left the key posts of foreign affairs, interior affairs, defence and economy unchanged.

    Bashar al-Assad has promised political and social reform

    The appointments on Thursday by Muhammad

    Naji al-Otari mean

     more than half the faces in the new government,

    dominated by members of the country's ruling party, are new.

    Officials said Ghassan al-Rifai, who was minister of

    economy and foreign trade in the last government, would take on

    a new portfolio expanded to include domestic trade and supply.

    Former Deputy Prime Minister Muhammad al-Husayn was

    appointed finance minister, and

    Ahmad al-Hasan, a former ambassador, replaced Adnan Omran as i

    nformation minister.

    US pressure 

    Syrian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Bouthaina Shaaban, was

    appointed minister of expatriates, the officials said.

    President Bashar al-Assad accepted the resignation of

    former Prime Minister Muhammad Mustafa Mero last week and

    appointed Otari, a former parliamentary speaker, to head a new


    It was the second reshuffle that al-Assad - who took office in

    2000 vowing economic and political reform

    - has

    carried out since he became president.

    It coincides with mounting US pressure on Syria over its

    support for Lebanon's Hizb Allah and Palestinian resistance fighters

    , as well as accusations of meddling in Iraq to

    undermine the US-led occupation of the country.



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