Ex-minister to form new Syrian government

Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, appoints agricultural minister in last cabinet to form new government.

    Assad fired his cabinet last week in an attempt to appease protesters demanding reforms [AFP]

    Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, has appointed a former minister to form a new government, state-run television said, in a move aimed at appeasing protesters demanding political reforms.

    Assad issued a decree on Sunday appointing Adel Safar, agricultural minister in the previous administration, to form a new cabinet.

    Safar is expected to announce his new cabinet within two days, a government official told the Reuters news agency.

    Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from the capital, Damascus, said that the government is trying to communicate to the protesters, who have taken to the streets in recent weeks, that it is serious about making change.

    "Some people are hopeful, but others are disappointed," she said. "They think it is too little, too late."

    Other measures targeted to appease the public have also been announced, include the formation of two committees formed to deal with the aftermath of the protests.

    The first committee will investigate the violence in Dara in which a number of people were killed, while the second committee would look into what it would take to lift emergency law in place since a coup which brought the Baath Party to power in 1963.

    The second committee is supposed to submit its report to the president by April 25.

    Assad fired his cabinet last week in an attempt to appease protesters demanding reforms.

    In an address to the nation on Wednesday, the Syrian president blamed "conspirators" for two weeks of anti-government protests that have rocked the nation.

    An extraordinary wave of protests has proven the most serious challenge yet to Assad's 11-year rule.

    Funeral for protesters

    Meanwhile, thousands poured into the streets of Douma, a suburb north of Damascus, on Sunday to bury eight people killed in a crackdown by Syrian security forces.

    Residents of neighbouring towns joined the massive funeral for the eight people killed in one of Friday's protest centres.

    Our correspondent said that while there were no clashes at the funerals, the situation in the suburb remained tense.

    Shops had shut their doors as a safety precaution ahead of the funerals and security forces, widely blamed for the deaths, were nowhere to be seen.

    "There is no government presence at all," a resident said.

    "Some volunteers are helping organise traffic."

    He also said that 90 people who were detained in a roundup by security forces were released on Saturday, adding that there are still at least 15 people missing, fuelling rumours of their arrest or possible deaths.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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