Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Syrian Cabinet resigns amid mounting unrest

Syria's Cabinet has resigned in an effort to quell a wave of popular fury that erupted more than a week ago, threatening one of the most authoritarian and closed-off nations in the Middle East.

The country's state-run television service said Bashir al-Assad, Syria's president, had accepted the resignation of the 32-member Cabinet headed by Naji al-Otari, who has been in place since September 2003. The Cabinet will continue running the country's affairs until the formation of a new government.

Mr al-Assad, whose family has controlled Syria for four decades, has been trying to calm the growing dissent with a string of concessions.

The resignations will not affect Mr al-Assad, who holds the lion's share of power in the authoritarian regime, but he is expected to address the nation in the next 24 hours to lift emergency laws which have been in place since 1963 and moving to annul other harsh restrictions on civil liberties.

More than 60 people have died since March 18 as security forces cracked down on protesters, Human Rights Watch said.

The announcement came hours after hundreds of thousands of supporters of Syria's hard-line regime poured into the streets on Tuesday as the government tried to show it has mass support. (read more)