Syria Baath leadership replaced, UN calls for Ramadan truce
Damascus: Syria`s ruling Baath party has replaced its top leadership in a surprise move, while UN head Ban Ki-moon called on all parties in the war to observe a truce during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Meanwhile in Turkey, interim Syrian rebel prime minister Ghassan Hitto announced his resignation yesterday on a day of political manoeuvering.
The developments came as troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad advanced into the rebel-held Khaldiyeh district of Homs on the 10th day of an assault there.
The Baath party`s central committee published the names of 16 members of the new leadership, which included none of the party`s old chiefs with the exception of Assad, who will remain secretary general.
The ruling party reshuffle was its first since 2005 and Assad urged the party to "develop" and work more closely with the people to help end the country`s 27-month war, state media said.
Among the incoming party leaders are parliament chief Jihad al-Laham and Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi.
"The party must develop in step with reality on the ground, and promote a culture of dialogue and voluntary action by the people," Assad said, cited by state news agency SANA.
He added that the party needed "to put in place new... criteria for the selection of party representatives, in order for them to be able to achieve (society`s) objectives".
In New York UN chief Ban was more concerned with the continued bloodshed, calling on all Syrian parties to observe a truce during Ramadan.
"I am calling for every military unit of the regular army and the Free Syrian Army, for every person holding a gun, to stop fighting and offer this month of peace as a collective present to their people," he said in a statement.
He added in his "Ramadan appeal" a call for the release of detainees.
Bassam Abu Abdullah, director of the Damascus Centre for Strategic Studies, said the Baath party overhaul was the result of deep-seated party discontent.
"There has been a lot of criticism from within the base towards the leadership, which has been accused of being inflexible, both before and since the crisis," he said, of the uprising.
A second analyst noted the changes presaged a younger leadership that would be "more open to the international community".
The Baath party has been in power since March 8, 1963.
The move comes against the backdrop of the ongoing conflict in Syria, which began in March 2011 with peaceful anti-government protests but has become a bloody civil war estimated to have killed more than 100,000 people.
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