30 Mar 2011

Syrian government resigns

9:20 am on 30 March 2011

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has accepted his government's resignation after nearly two weeks of pro-democracy unrest.

State news agency SANA says Prime Minister Naji al-Otari will remain in the role as a caretaker until a new government is formed.

However, commentators say the resignation is unlikely to satisfy protester demands, since the Cabinet has little authority in Syria, where power is concentrated in the hands of Mr Assad, his family and security forces, Reuters reports.

All gatherings and demonstrations not sponsored by the state are banned in Syria, a country of 22 million. At least 60 people have died in recent anti-government protests.

Tens of thousands of Syrians held pro-government rallies on Tuesday, awaiting a speech in which Mr Assad was expected to announce a decision on lifting emergency laws that have served to crush dissent for almost 50 years.

Since January, uprisings in the Arab world have toppled veteran autocratic presidents in Tunisia and Egypt and motivated rebels fighting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.