Syria's Assad tasks caretaker PM to form new govt

By: AFP      Published: 08:35 PM, 25 Aug, 2020
Syria's Assad tasks caretaker PM to form new govt

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Tuesday appointed caretaker prime minister Hussein Arnous to draw up a new cabinet as the country grapples with a stinging economic crisis and a coronavirus outbreak.

"President Assad issues decree number 210 for year 2020, which tasks... Hussein Arnous with forming a government," the presidency said in a statement.

Formerly the minister for water resources, Arnous replaced Imad Khamis in June and served as interim prime minister until parliamentary polls were held last month.

Khamis was sacked following a wave of public criticism over the government's handling of an economic crisis that has seen the value of the Syrian pound plummet against the dollar on the black market. He had served as premier for four years.

Like Assad and Khamis, Arnous has been the target of US and European Union sanctions.

A new wave of US measures against Syria that came into force in June has prompted fears of deeper economic turmoil.

Arnous's government will also have to oversee ongoing efforts to combat the country's novel coronavirus outbreak.

Syria has recorded 2,293 cases of infection, including 92 deaths, in government-held areas, but medics and residents say the real number of cases is likely to be much higher.

Arnous, 67, hails from Maaret al-Numan in Idlib province, half of which is controlled by jihadists and allied rebels. 

He graduated from the faculty of civil engineering at the University of Aleppo in 1978 and later held several official posts, including governor of the eastern province of Deir Ezzor and then the southern province of Quneitra.

He took over the ministry of public works in 2013 and then the ministry of water resources in 2018.

Assad's government now controls around 70 percent of Syria after nine years of war.

The conflict has killed at least 380,000 people and displaced half of the country's pre-war population.