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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 September, 2003, 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK
Profile: Mohammed Naji al-Otari
Syria's assembly speaker steps up to PM
Mr al-Otari accepts his nomination

Parliament speaker Mohammed Naji al-Otari was named as Syria's new prime minister to replace Mohammed Mustapha Mero on 10 September, 2003.

Mr Mero's government had been criticised for the slow pace of reform. In August, President Bashar al-Assad promised a new government to speed up administrative change.

Born in Syria's second city Aleppo in 1944, Mr al-Otari is a long-serving member of the ruling Baath Party.

He studied architecture and has a diploma in town planning from the Netherlands. He is fluent in French and English.

He headed the city council in Aleppo from 1983 to 1987 and is a former governor of Hums. He was also president of Aleppo's engineering association from 1989 to 1993.

In March 2000 he became a member of the Baath Party's Central Committee and in June 2000 of the party's influential Regional Command.

In March 2000 he was also appointed deputy prime minister for services affairs. He was elected speaker of the Syrian parliament, or People's Assembly, in March 2003.


Analysts regard Mr al-Otari as a compromise between party loyalists, who are said to be resisting change, and reform-minded technocrats.

Syrian newspaper editor Dr Mahdi Dakhlallah told Arabic al-Jazeera TV after the nomination that he represents "two trends" in the leadership: Firmly rooted in the "Baathist establishment", he is also a relative newcomer to its upper echelons.

"This combination of the technocratic and Baathist trends is important for the Syrian situation," Dr Dakhlallah said.

The leader of the parliament's foreign affairs committee, Mahmud al-Abrash, described the new premier as a firm advocate of modernisation.

"I expect al-Otari to speed up reform to a reasonable pace. Not too fast, but fast enough," Mr al-Abrash said.

For his part, the head of Syria's chambers of commerce, Ratib al-Shalah, has praised Mr al-Otari's "immense capabilities".

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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