Syria's Assad appoints a new cabinet


AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been fighting rebels for the last three years and been isolated by much of the world, issued a decree to form a new government on Wednesday, keeping most key ministers in place.

Assad was sworn in for a new seven-year term on July 16 after a presidential election that confirmed his grip on power, a process that required him to name a new government.

He re-appointed Wael al-Halaqi as prime minister, having first given him the job 2012 after his predecessor, Riad Hijab, fled Syria to join the opposition. Halaqi, who wields little power in a system dominated by the president, survived a bomb attack on his convoy in Damascus last year.

Critics consider the cabinet, made up of Baathist loyalists, to be largely symbolic as power in Syria lies in the hands of Assad and his inner circle of family and elite members of the security forces.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)