Syria to get new govt, president to address nation

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Syria to get new govt, president to address nation

The government in Syria will resign on Tuesday and a new one will see the light within 24 hours, a high-ranking official told AFP.

By (AFP)

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Published: Tue 29 Mar 2011, 6:35 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 9:25 AM

With President Bashar al-Assad facing his worst domestic crisis since succeeding his father in 2000, tens of thousands of Syrians Tuesday flooded central Damascus in a show of support for the embattled leader.

Syrian state television showed footage of massive crowds thronging the streets in other governorates, including Homs and Aleppo.

Speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, the official said the government would “tender its resignation today and a new cabinet should be formed within 24 hours.”

Prime Minister Mohammed Naji Otri formed his government in 2003. It was last re-shuffled in April 2009.

Syria has been gripped by a wave of increasingly violent protests since mid-March, which have put Assad under unprecedented pressure as protesters call for freedoms and reforms.

Assad is expected to address his people in the coming days to announce the end of a state of emergency, in force since the ruling Baath party took power in 1963.

Protests demanding change have largely centred in the southern governorate of Daraa, a tribal region at the Jordanian border, and the northern port city of Latakia.

Activists say more than 130 people have been killed and scores injured in clashes with security forces at the rallies.

Officials have accused “armed gangs” and Muslim fundamentalists of aiming to incite the unrest and put the death toll at around 30.

No pro-regime rallies were staged in Latakia, where snipers and gangs have surfaced in recent days, raising security concerns, while in Daraa about 300 people took to the streets in a rally against the government, activists said.

But in Damascus, all roads leading to Sabeh Bahrat (“Seven Fountains”) square were cut off by police armed with batons, as men, women and children raised Syrian flags and pictures of Assad and his father, Hafez al-Assad.

“The people want Bashar al-Assad,” they chanted in unison, under a massive picture of their blue-eyed president that had been hoisted on Syria’s central bank.

“We are here to show the real will of the Syrian people, and that is to protect and support their president, may God protect him,” said a young woman named Raghad, who turned out early for the rally with her sisters.

“This rally is to stop the plot to destroy Syrian unity,” said a man who identified himself as Abu Khodr.

“Bashar al-Assad is the spine of Syria. Without him, our country will be pushed into chaos.”

The rally follows a pledge by the authorities to lift the state of emergency as part of a package of reforms announced in a bid to reach out to the protest movements, which surfaced briefly in Damascus but were quickly quelled.

Buthaina Shaaban, a top adviser to Assad, on Sunday told AFP authorities had decided to end the state of emergency.

But analysts say it is too early to say what the announcement will mean in terms of real change in the key Middle Eastern state.

Syria’s emergency law imposes restrictions on public gatherings and movements and authorises the arrest of “suspects or persons who threaten security.”

It also allows the interrogation of any individual and the surveillance of personal communications as well as official control of the content of newspapers and other media before publication.

In a conciliatory move last week, the authorities announced talks were also underway to adopt new laws on the media and licensing of political parties.

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