'Assad orders release of all those arrested in protests'

State TV says Syrian president to release those who "didn't commit crimes against nation"; new gov't formed t appease protesters.

April 14, 2011 19:27
1 minute read.

Assad 311 reuters. (photo credit: reuters)

Syrian President Bashar Assad ordered the release of all detainees arrested in the recent wave of protests, except for those who committed crimes "against the nation and the citizens," state television said.

It was Assad's latest move to try to defuse tension in the country.

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"President Assad decided to release all those detained after recent events who did not commit crimes against the nation and [its] citizens," Syrian state television said on Thursday.

Assad also formed a new government in a move to appease protesters calling for reforms, state news agency SANA said.

The new government is headed by Adel Safar who served as agriculture minister in the government of Naji al-Otari which resigned on March 29, more than a week after protests broke out in the southern city of Deraa and spread to other parts of the country.

Assad retained his previous foreign minister, Walid al-Moualem in the new cabinet.

Syria's state news agency said snipers killed a soldier earlier on Thursday in the coastal city of Banias, where authorities had been trying to ease tensions after protests against Assad.

Rights campaigners had said authorities had agreed to replace secret police in Banias with army patrols as part of a deal to reduce tension in the restive city.

The agency quoted a source saying "a group of armed snipers shot today a number of army members while they patrolled the city of Banias... One was martyred and another wounded".

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