Assad replaces Syrian prime minister

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has dismissed prime minister Imad Khamis

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has removed prime minister Imad Khamis from the post he has occupied since 2016, state media say, in a move that follows weeks of deepening economic hardship.

State media did not give a reason for the sudden decision, announced in a presidential decree that designated water resources minister Hussein Arnous as Khamis' successor.

But Syria has been in the throes of an economic crisis, with the currency plunging to record lows in recent days, aggravating hardships for ordinary Syrians battered by years of war.

Arnous, 67, currently minister of water resources, was born in Idlib and had served in a long succession of government posts, including governor of Deir Zor province that borders Iraq and Quneitra province in southern Syria.

The currency hit a record 3000 Syrian pounds to the US dollar earlier this week in a rapidly accelerating free-fall.

It traded at 47 pounds to the US dollar at the start of the conflict.

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

The government has criticised a wave of new, tighter US sanctions, known as the Caesar Act, which takes effect later this month which economists and politicians say will further tighten the noose around Assad's government.