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Syrian President Accepts Cabinet Resignation Amid Protests

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's supporters gather to demonstrate their support for their president, in Damascus, March 29, 2011

Syrian state TV announced the resignation its cabinet and of Prime Minister Mohammed Naji Otari, but said he would remain in a caretaker capacity until a new government was formed.

Syria's cabinet resigned Tuesday in an effort to quell a wave of anti-government demonstrations in recent days which appear to be putting the leadership of President Bashar al Assad's 11-year rule to the test. Mr. Assad also accepted the resignation of cabinet leader Naji al Otari, but shortly afterwards named him caretaker prime minister.

The political shuffle came as tens of thousands of demonstrators turned out across Syria to chant slogans in support of President Assad. The rallies took place in over half a dozen cities, including the capital Damascus.

In Damascus, a middle-aged man offered a pledge of loyalty to President Assad, insisting that everyone in Syria supports their leader.

He swears that he and everyone else support the president, the government and the official Ba’ath party, and wish them success, prosperity, progress and growth. He insists that President Assad is his hero, as well as his leader, and he wishes him a long life.

Government organizers dubbed the rallies "million man marches" and argued that they show the Syrian people are united.

A government opponent complained on Al-Jazeera TV that the rallies were orchestrated by the the government and supporters were given rides to the demonstrations and a day off from work.

Human Rights Watch says that 60 people have been killed since violence first broke out in the city of Daraa on March 18. Protests reportedly began after a group of children were arrested in Daraa for spray-painting anti-government graffiti on city walls.

The unrest in Syria could have implications beyond its borders. It's role as as an outspoken critic of Israel and an ally of Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon is seen by many western nations as a potentially destabilizing force in the Middle East.

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