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Syria's Assad appoints new prime minister after defection

Aug. 9, 2012 1:40 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 12, 2012 12:22 P.M.)
BEIRUT (Reuters) -- Syrian President Bashar Assad appointed Health Minister Wael al-Halki as prime minister on Thursday, after the defection earlier this week of Prime Minister Riyad Hijab.

Halki, born in 1964, is from the southern province of Deraa where the uprising against four decades of Assad family rule erupted. He replaces caretaker premier Omar Ghalawanji who was appointed hours after Hijab's defection.

Like Hijab, Halki is from Syria's Sunni Muslim majority. Sunnis have been the driving force of the 17-month-old uprising.

Assad's Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, dominates political and military power circles.

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