January 1, 2018 / 3:44 PM / in a year

Syria's Assad names new defence and other ministers - state TV

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as seen in Damascus, Syria November 14, 2017. SANA/Handout via REUTERS

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday issued a decree appointing new ministers for defence, industry and information, state television reported.

He appointed General Ali Abdullah Ayoub as defence minister, Mohammed Mazen Ali Yousef as industry minister and Imad Abullah Sarah as information minister, state television reported, citing the decree.

Ayoub, who was previously chief of staff in the army, is a member of Assad’s Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam. He replaces Fahad Jassim al-Freij.

The new information minister, Sarah, was previously the head of Syria radio and television.

Changes of senior ministers are not unusual in Syria. The shake-up of senior military positions comes after a year of battlefield victories against anti-Assad rebels and Islamic State.

Assad now appears militarily unassailable, but relies heavily on his allies Russia and Iran, as well as regional militias backed by Iran. Some important parts of Syria remain out of his hands and the economy has been crippled by sanctions.

Russia is pushing a diplomatic track to seek a political settlement to the war.

Reporting by Angus McDowall; editing by Kevin Liffey and Jason Neely

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