Syrian President Bashar Assad appointed former agriculture minister Adel Safar today as prime minister, and charged him with forming a new government in continuing overtures toward reform as the country struggles to put down a wave of anti-government protests. Safar is seen as a respectable figure in a government that many had criticized for corruption.
Hundreds of people were marching today in Douma, a suburb of the capital Damascus, for funerals to mourn those killed in the latest round of protests, which started two weeks ago. At least 80 people have died in clashes with security forces. Human rights groups and eyewitnesses said a campaign of arrests was continuing today as Assad tries to cut off the demonstrations. Ammar Qurabi, who heads Syria's National Organization for Human Rights, said at least 500 people were under arrest since protests began on March 18. (Read more Bashar al-Assad stories.)