Syrian cabinet resigns, political prisoners released

(VOA) — Syria’s state media say the government of Prime Minister Mohammed Naji al-Otari has resigned and the country’s president has accepted the resignations.

The reports say President Bashar al-Assad accepted the Cabinet resignations on Tuesday, following more than a week of anti-government protests.

The Associated Press says the 32-member Cabinet will continue running the country’s affairs until President Assad forms a new government.

News reports say President Assad could announce an end to Syria’s nearly 50-year-old emergency laws when he addresses the nation in the coming days.

The opposition protests represent the most serious threat to President Assad’s 11-year-rule and the long-standing authority of his family.

Syrian security officials have cracked down on the demonstrations, firing tear gas and live ammunition to disperse protesters. The U.S.-based rights group Human Rights Watch says at least 61 people have been killed since the unrest began.

Syrian officials say at least 12 people were killed in unrest in the port of Latakia on Friday and Saturday. Witnesses and human rights groups say security forces fired on protesters. Authorities blame armed extremists and foreign powers for inciting the violence.

The southern city of Daraa has been the focal point of the demonstrations.

(Washington Post) — The cabinet resignation, reported on state TV, marks the latest concession by Assad since protesters forced a string of political promises from his government, including a pledge to lift a 48-year-old emergency law. On Saturday, Assad released hundreds of political prisoners and pulled back security forces from the southwestern city where Syria’s burgeoning unrest began earlier this month.

Along with those concessions, anti-government activists are calling on Assad to rescind limits on civil rights, including the right to free assembly.

Opposition members say talk is no longer enough to appease the protesters.

“The issue is not what Assad will say, it is what will he apply?” said Ammar Qurabi, who head Syria’s National Organization for Human Rights. “We are tired of all this talk that the Syrian people have heard from the government for 11 years.”

FORUM | AMHARIC