Syria's Assad appoints new PM after defection
DAMASCUS - Agence France-Presse
President Bashar al-Assad has appointed Wael al-Halqi as Syria's new premier, state television reported today, after his predecessor defected to join a rebellion.
"The president has signed Decree 298, appointing Wael al-Halqi as the new prime minister," the broadcaster reported.
Health Minister Halqi was appointed to replace Riad Hijab, whose defection to the opposition was announced on Monday.
Hijab's was the highest-level defection from Assad's regime since the outbreak of a revolt almost 17 months ago.
The former premier arrived on Wednesday morning in Jordan with his family, according to Jordanian Information Minister Samih Maayatah.
"Hijab and members of his family entered Jordan during the early hours of Wednesday," Maayatah told AFP without elaborating.
The new premier 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. He is specialised in gynecology and obstetrics.
Hijab served as ruling Baath Party secretary in Daraa from 2000 to 2004, and was president of the order of doctors in 2010.