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Last Updated: Friday, 18 February, 2005, 15:17 GMT
Syria replaces intelligence chief
Brig Gen Asef Shawkat
Shawkat is in charge of intelligence at home and abroad
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has appointed his brother-in-law as head of military intelligence, reports say.

Brig Gen Asef Shawkat replaced Gen Hassan Khalil, who had reportedly reached retirement age.

Syrian sources say the appointment could suggest Mr Assad is consolidating his hold over the security services.

The move follows the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which has intensified calls for Syrian troops to withdraw from Lebanon.

As head of military intelligence, Gen Shawkat will oversee Syria's domestic and foreign intelligence operations, including in Lebanon.

He assumed the post on Monday when Gen Khalil turned 60, Reuters news agency quoted Syrian sources as saying.

Last August, President Assad issued an order banning extending the terms of armed forces officers, the news agency reports.

Gen Shawkat, 54, was previously deputy military intelligence chief and is married to President Assad's sister, Bushra.

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