Assad appoints agriculture minister as new Syria PM

Safar expected to announce new Syrian cabinet within two days; Assad says improved living conditions, solving water crisis, legitimate concerns.

Syrian protests (photo credit: REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri)
Syrian protests
(photo credit: REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri)
BEIRUT - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has appointed Adel Safar, who served as agriculture minister in the government which resigned last week, to form a new government, an official Syrian source said on Sunday.
He said Safar was expected to announce his new cabinet within two days. Assad accepted the resignation of Naji al-Otari's government on Tuesday after a wave of protests in which witnesses and activists say 60 people have been killed.
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The government has little influence in Syria, where power is held by Assad, his family and the security apparatus.
Safar, a member of the ruling Baath Party, was born in 1953 and has university degrees from Syria and France.
In his first comments on unprecedented protests against his rule, Assad said on Wednesday improving living conditions was a legitimate popular demand, and cited solving a water crisis that has displaced hundreds of thousands of Syrians over the past six years as a priority.
Assad dismissed the broader concerns about repression and growing demands for political freedoms in the country that has been ruled by the Baath Party since 1963. Safar was dean of the college of agriculture at Damascus University between 1997 and 2000, before being appointed to the important political position of secretary of the Baath Party branch at the university.