Assad replaces eastern governor after demonstrations

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 24, 2011 12:48 PM
Assad replaces eastern governor after demonstrations

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad replaced the governor of the eastern tribal province of Deir al-Zor Sunday, two days after the biggest protests demanding an end to Assad's rule in the oil producing region.

Hussein Arnos, a civilian, was transferred to govern the small province of Qunaitera west of Damascus, on the border with the Golan heights, the agency said, noting that he was replaced by Samir Othman al-Sheikh, an officer in the intelligence apparatus.

Half a million people took to streets across Deir al-Zor on Friday to demand Assad's removal, in the biggest demonstrations since the street uprising for political freedoms erupted in March, activists and human rights campaigners monitoring the demonstrations said.

Last week the army surrounded the town of Albu Kamal, on the easternmost edge of Deir al-Zor, which borders Iraq's Sunni heartland, after 30 soldiers defected following the killing of four protesters in the town, residents said.

Deir al-Zor, which produces most of Syria's 380,000 barrels per day of oil, is among the poorest of the country's 13 provinces. A water crisis in the last six years, which experts attribute to mismanagement and corruption, has hit agricultural production and cut living standards.

Since the uprising began, Assad, from Syria's minority Alawite sect, has sacked the governors of the southern province of Deraa, cradle of the uprising, and the provinces of Homs and Hama, where the number of demonstrators has been growing.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Amman newsroom; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)