Syria Baath party reshuffles leadership; Syrian opposition leader Hitto resigns


Syrians wave national flags and portraits of President Bashar al-Assad as they rally in support of the regime on the first anniversary of the anti-regime revolt in Damascus on March 15, 2012. State television showed tens of thousands of people waving Syrian flags and Assad's portrait in squares in Damascus, the northern city of Aleppo, Latakia on the Mediterranean coast, Suweida to the south and Hasaka in the northeast.



The Syrian Baath party leadership was reshuffled on Monday with all 16 members of the high command dropped.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will remain in the top post as secretary-general but his vice president, Farouk al-Sharaa, was demoted from the circle of power.

Al Sharaa's loyalty to Assad has recently been the target of speculation given his potential role as leader in the possible peace process. Though he will remain vice-president, his power inside the party will reportedly be diminished.

Parliament speaker Jihad al-Laham and Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi were promoted to leadership roles in the party.

The shake-up comes amid military gains by the regime forces against the rebels who are losing positions in the north lately.

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It also comes the same day as Syria's opposition prime minister, Ghassan Hitto, resigned from his post.

Hitto was a member of the Syrian National Coalition and was tasked with forming an interim government to administer rebel-held areas.

"I announce I will not continue in my capacity as prime minister tasked with leading the interim government, though I emphasise I will continue working for the interests of the revolution and towards achieving its objectives," Hitto said in a statement.

Hitto was elected in March 2013 but was said to be widely distrusted.

The announcement is a blow for the Istanbul-based Coalition that is torn by disagreements over whether to join peace talks and its questionable control over Syrian rebel forces in the country.