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AMMAN: Syria named veteran diplomat Faisal Mekdad as foreign minister on Sunday to replace Walid Moalem, who died last week, state media reported.

Mekdad, 66, had been deputy foreign minister since 2006. He has also held a string of diplomatic posts, including envoy to the United Nations.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also appointed Bashar al-Jaafari, currently ambassador to the United Nations, as deputy foreign minister.

Moalem was a staunch defender of Assad’s bloody crackdown on peaceful protesters in 2011, which sparked a conflict that has now lasted almost a decade.

Moalem died last Monday at the age of 79, after suffering years of heart problems.—Reuters