Syria’s government resigned in the
wake of protests that began earlier this month and marked the strongest
challenge to President Bashar al-Assad’s rule since he took power in 2000.
Assad accepted Prime Minister
Muhammad Naji Otri’s resignation, state television reported.
Assad asked the government to run affairs
until a new Cabinet is formed, the state news agency said.
The move follows a series of
concessions the regime has promised including the release of more than 200
prisoners, steps to combat corruption, a media law guaranteeing more freedom,
improving living standards for residents of border areas and legal changes to
ban random arrests.
Syria is the latest Middle Eastern
country to be hit by a wave of uprisings that ousted long-time rulers in Egypt
and Tunisia, and sparked an armed conflict in Libya.
More than 90 people have been
killed as the government cracked down on dissent, according to unconfirmed
reports cited by Amnesty International.
Assad’s regime is an ally of Iran
and a power broker in neighbouring Lebanon, where it supports the Shiite Muslim
Assad is expected to give a speech
within two days, the Syrian Arab News Agency reported, citing Vice President
George Jabbour, a member of
parliament, said the president is likely to announce a number of measures,
including the lifting of emergency law that would “assure the Syrian people.”
Assad’s father, the late President
Hafez Assad, ruled the Arab country for 29 years.
In 1982, he crushed a rebellion led
by Islamist militants in the city of Hama, killing as many as 10,000 people,
according to estimates cited by Human Rights Watch.