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In Syria, a new government is formed

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Democracy protests in Syria
  • A former Cabinet minister is now the prime minister
  • This comes as Syria grapples with discontent
  • The government says a soldier was killed in Banias

(CNN) -- Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, has announced the formation of a new government, the Syrian Arab News Agency reported Thursday.

The prime minister is Adel Safar, a Baath Party member who was the agricultural minister in the previous Cabinet, which resigned last month.

The announcement was made as Syria is overwhelmed by anti-regime protests and clashes between demonstrators and security forces, conflict that has caused scores of deaths. The Syrian government claimed Thursday that one of its soldiers was shot dead in the city of Banias.

Syria has retained its foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, and defense minister, Ali Habib. But there are new heads in other positions, including the key ones of interior, finance, and media affairs, Syria TV said.

Opposition forces demanded the lifting of the country's emergency declaration and the end of one-party rule in Syria, among other things, as the winds of change in the Arab world whipped through Syria over the last month.

Al-Assad has made some moves intended to placate opposition activists, such as studying whether to end the 48-year-old state of emergency and providing citizenship for stateless people in the Kurdish region.

However, activists say the government has cracked down violently on peaceful protesters. That claim is disputed by the Syrian government, which blames armed groups for attacking security forces and citizenship.

CNN's Tracy Doueiry and Rima Maktabi contributed to this report

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