Syria's Assad names new prime minister after defection

BEIRUT Thu Aug 9, 2012 7:34am EDT

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-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 Shi'ite Islam, dominates political and military power circles.

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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