Syria's Assad asks PM Arnous to form new cabinet

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Syria's President Bashar al-Assad meets with the Syrian cabinet in Damascus
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AMMAN (Reuters) -Syrian President Bashar al Assad has tasked Prime Minister Hussein Arnous with forming a new government following an election in May that extended Assad's two-decade-old presidency.

Assad originally named Arnous as prime minister last August to replace Imad Khamis, who was fired as Syria grappled with a major economic crisis and a plunging currency with much of the country shattered by a 10-year civil war.

Assad took the oath last month for a fourth term in office after a presidential election last May that Western powers dismissed as a farce and the United Nations said defied a peace plan calling for voting under international supervision to help enable a political settlement of Syria's conflict.

Over the past year the government has taken a series of unpopular measures ranging from steep fuel price hikes to tougher bread rationing to curb lavish subsidies that have drained state finances struggling under tough Western sanctions.

Syrian authorities blame sanctions for widespread hardship among the people, and the currency collapse has led to soaring prices and people struggling to afford food and basic supplies.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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