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After Denying News About his Appointment… Assad Designates ‘Minister of Darkness’ as New PM | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Bashar Assad during an interview with AFP in at the presidential palace in Damascus, in a photo released on Jan. 20, 2014.

London-Less than a week after the Syrian regime denied reports that it had appointed Engineer Imad Khamis to form the new government, Bashar Assad withdrew the denial by issuing a presidential decree on Wednesday to appoint the Acting Electricity Minister as the successor to Wael Halki.

The website of Russia Today (RT) channel had reported a few days ago that Khamis will form the new Syrian government. RT quoted Syrian sources as saying: “Khamis is about to announce the names of his new cabinet members, including 12 new ministers.”

Russia Today had also reported that four leading ministerial posts in the new cabinet would remain unchanged: Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar, Defense Minister Jassem al-Freij and Financial Minister Ismael Ismael.

However, the official Syrian news agency Sana had quoted a spokesperson close to the regime as saying that “the formation of a government is carried out through constitutional means and that all information published by the media in this regard was totally inaccurate.”

But on Wednesday, the Syrian official television had posted a breaking-news saying that Assad “issued decree 187 for 2016 tasking Engineer Imad Mohammad Deeb Khamis with forming the government of the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Khamis was born in 1961 in Saqba Ghouta, one of the first areas which revolted against the Assad regime before being transformed to one of the strongholds of the armed opposition and is now surrounded by regime forces and its militias.

Khamis received a degree in electrical engineering and a master’s degree in energy from Damascus University in 1981.

He occupied several administrative posts at the Damascus Electricity General Company between 1987 and 2000, in addition to working as director of energy services at the Electricity Ministry between 2001 and 2003.

Between 2003 and 2005 he worked at the Damascus Countryside Electricity General Company as Assistant Director General, and from 2005 to 2008 he became its Director General, and then became Director General of the General Establishment for Electric Power Distribution and Investment between 2008 and 2011. He has been Syria’s Minister of Electricity since 2011. Khamis is married with three children.

The presidential decree drove a wave of criticism among Syrians especially in the areas controlled by the regime, not because Assad appeared as working under the control of the Russians, but because the decree came few days after an increase in oil prices, which led to an unprecedented rise in the prices of goods before the end of Ramadan.

Khamis had been considered one of the leading figures of “austere living” in the past five years. He is best known as “the prince of darkness” or the “minister of darkness.”

Khamis is also known for his famous statement: “Electricity was cut due to a terrorist attack on the southern electricity line.”

One of the first comments heard in the streets of Syria following the appointment of Khamis was: “When Khamis was given the Ministry of Electricity, electricity became a dream, so what will happen now that he is handed over all ministries!”