Syria's Assad appoints seven new ministers: Sana

DAMASCUS (AFP) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has changed seven ministers in his cabinet, the official SANA news agency reported on Saturday, without saying why. None of the key portfolios was affected.

The agency said Mr Assad had decided to split the ministry of labour and social affairs into two, and brought in a woman, Kinda Shmat, to head the latter. Hassan Hijazi becomes labour minister.

Sleiman Abbas takes the oil and mineral resources portfolio, and Ismail Ismail becomes finance minister. Hussein Farzat gets housing and urban development, Ahmad al-Qadri goes to agriculture and public works goes to Hussein Arnus.

Mr Assad has announced several reshuffles since the uprising against his rule broke out nearly two years ago, the most recent in August last year.

The United Nations says that more than 60,000 people have been killed in the armed conflict, which has also caused more than 700,000 Syrians to flee as refugees to neighbouring states Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.