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News

Health minister takes over as Syria's new PM

As Syrian forces attack Aleppo, President Bashar Assad has named a new prime minister to replace his government's high-profile defector. Riyad Hijab spent only two months as prime minister before fleeing Syria on Monday.

Prime Minister Wael Halqi, a gynecologist and the former health minister, was born in 1964 in the southern province of Daraa, where the uprising broke out in March 2011. A father of four, Halqi holds a degree in medicine from the University of Damascus.

Former prime minister Riyad Hijab's escape to Jordan had dealt another blow to Assad's authority, already shaken by the assassination last month of four of his top security officials and by rebel gains in Damascus, Aleppo and swathes of rural Syria.

Meanwhile, unnamed diplomatic sources told the AFP and Reuters news agencies that veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi could be named as the new international envoy to Syria next week. Former UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan resigned in protest over what he called "finger pointing" among the UN Security Council members.

Meanwhile, rebels said that as many as 250 people had been killed in Salaheddine, a southern district of Aleppo, in the last three days as a result of Assad's crackdown.

And, at a Tehran conference on the Syria conflict, Iran's proposal that rebels negotiate reform won support from the representatives of the nations in attendance. The conference was dismissed by the United States and several other countries, however, and no representatives of either the Syrian rebels or the government were in attendance.

mkg, slk/jr (dpa, AFP, Reuters)