Wed, Jul 10, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Syria’s Baath party overhauls top


Syria’s ruling Baath party has replaced its top leadership in a surprise move, while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all parties in the war to observe a truce during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Meanwhile in Turkey, interim Syrian rebel prime minister Ghassan Hitto announced his resignation on Monday as the main opposition National Coalition ended a five-day meeting in Istanbul.

The developments came as troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad advanced into the rebel-held Khaldiyeh district of Homs on the 10th day of an assault there.

The Baath party’s central committee published the names of 16 members of the new leadership, which included none of its old leaders, with the exception of al-Assad, who will remain secretary general.

The ruling party reshuffle was its first since 2005 and al-Assad urged the party to “develop” and work more closely with the people to help end the country’s 27-month war, state media said.

“The party must develop in step with reality on the ground, and promote a culture of dialogue and voluntary action by the people,” al-Assad said, cited by state news agency SANA.

Among the incoming party leaders are parliament chief Jihad al-Laham and Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi.

Bassam Abu Abdullah, director of the Damascus Centre for Strategic Studies, said the Baath party overhaul was the result of deep-seated party discontent.

“There has been a lot of criticism from within the base towards the leadership, which has been accused of being inflexible, both before and since the crisis,” he said, of the uprising.

A second analyst said the changes presaged a younger leadership that would be “more open to the international community.”

In New York, Ban called on all Syrian parties to observe a truce during Ramadan.

“I am calling for every military unit of the regular army and the Free Syrian Army, for every person holding a gun, to stop fighting and offer this month of peace as a collective present to their people,” he said in a statement.

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