Syria's Assad Appoints New Prime Minister
August 09, 2012
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has appointed a new prime minister.
The appointment came as fighting continued in the country's second city Aleppo and as Iran hosts a diplomatic meeting about Syria.
Wael al-Halqi, the former health minister, will replace Riyad Hijab, who defected last week and is now in Jordan.
Al-Halqi, 48, is from the southern province of Deraa, where the 17-month uprising against Assad erupted.
He held the post of secretary general of the Deraa branch of the Ba'ath party from 2000 to 2004. He was appointed head of the doctors' syndicate in 2010.
In related news, fighting raged in Aleppo amid contradictory reports about who controlled the strategic Salaheddine neighborhood.
The state news agency claimed on August 8 that Assad's force had regained control of the Salaheddine neighborhood, the main rebel area in Aleppo. But activists said rebels were still putting up a fight there on August 9.
The AFP news agency reported that the Free Syrian Army withdrew completely from the embattled district of Salaheddine.
It quoted a rebel commander, Hossam Abu Mohammed, as saying that the rebels have "staged a tactical withdrawal from Salaheddine."
As the battle for Aleppo raged, Assad's closest foreign backer, Iran, gathered ministers from like-minded states for talks about how to end the conflict.
Russia, China, Pakistan, Venezuela, Central Asian states, and many Arab League members participated.
Tehran called for "serious and inclusive" talks between the Syrian government and the opposition.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said, "The Islamic Republic of Iran firmly believes that the Syrian crisis can only be resolved through serious and inclusive talks between the government and opposition groups that enjoy popular support in Syria."
In the speech, broadcast on Iranian television, Salehi said Tehran "rejects any foreign and military intervention in Syria and backs and supports UN efforts to resolve the crisis."
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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