Syrian state-run news agency SANA says President Bashar Assad has appointed a new prime minister to replace one who defected this week to neighbouring Jordan.

Assad appointed Wael Nader al-Halqi, elevating him from the post of health minister.

The 48-year-old held the post of secretary general of the Daraa branch of the Baath party from 2000-2004. He was appointed head of the doctors’ syndicate in 2010.

The former premier, Riad Hijab, completed his defection by crossing into Jordan early Wednesday. His defection was a humiliating blow for Assad’s regime.

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