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Syrian gov't, opposition reshuffle leadership amid crucial face-off in central city


13:54, July 11, 2013

DAMASCUS, July 10 (Xinhua) -- Both sides of the Syrian conflict reshuffled their leadership recently, as they tried to get into better shape for the crucial face-off in the central city of Homs.

At a meeting of Syria's ruling al-Baath party on Monday, President Bashar al-Assad retained his position as chairman of the party's regional command and 75-year-old Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa was removed from the committee.

Meanwhile, a host of younger ministers and governors took seats in the new leadership, with the youngest 44-year-old Najm al-Ahmad as justice minister.

"Young" seems to be the message the al-Baath party was trying to send to the people, as the committee often came under fire for mismanagement and failure to cope with the ongoing crisis.

Political analyst Hameedi Abdoulla said as the al-Baath party was stripped the exclusive right to rule the country in the early months of the Syrian crisis, the party is eager to win over the heart of the people, especially when its members in the government and commoners are responsible for a series of social problems including soaring commodity prices and worsening public security.

However, opposition group National Coordination Body (NCB) criticized the move as too little, too late, as this transfer of power was originally planned for 2011, but failed to convene with an incompetent initial nominated lineup.

The al-Baath party reshuffle came only days after opposition group Syrian National Coalition (SNC) underwent a series of shifts in its leadership.

SNC announced Saturday that Ahmad Jarba, considered having close connection with Saudi Arabia, was elected as its third president since the party was founded last November.

Two days following Jarba's ascend to power, Ghassan Hitto, the U.S. businessman who was elected prime minister of the opposition government in April, offered his resignation.

"The known circumstances have not allowed me to start working from the ground," Hitto said in a statement.

Analysts believe Hitto's frustration in failing to form a fully-fledged opposition government underlines the deep split between different factions within the opposition group.

It has become an open secret that powers backing the SNC, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, as well as Egypt's political group Muslim Brotherhood all have their own agendas on the Syrian crisis and often cannot see eye to eye, analysts say.

Former SNC president Moaz al-Khatib hinted as he was leaving office in May that one of the most serious problems that the SNC faces is the infighting that prevented the organization from functioning properly.

When seeking to improve leadership, the two sides of the Syrian crisis also engaged in fierce fighting in the strategic central city of Homs.

Since the end of last month, the government forces have launched a major campaign targeting Homs as well as other places in the province controlled by the opposition.

SANA news agency reported Wednesday that the government troops are making progress in the offensive, having discovered four tunnels used by the opposition and destroyed large quantities of opposition weapons.

Opposition accused the government of intensive shelling in some city districts, causing heavy casualties among civilians and destroying a number of religious buildings.

Located in the center of Syria, Homs plays a crucial role in both side's stratagem, while analysts believe the outcome of this battle will have tremendous impact on the course of the civil war.

However, Damascus-based analyst Salem Harban warns that even though military success would be a weighty bargaining chip for the government in any future negotiations, it may also encourage the West and some of the opposition's regional allies to step up their aid to the opposition.

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Email|Print|Comments(Editor:LiangJun、Yao Chun)

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