After a meeting on Tuesday, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad accepted his government’s resignation, as part of promised reforms.
A new government is due to be appointed within 24 hours.
The aim of this resignation is to hinder pro-democracy protests that have been going on for two weeks and in which dozens of people have been killed.
Outgoing prime minister Muhammad Naji Otari (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk) has been appointed as caretaker prime minister by president Assad, until a new government is appointed, said the official Syrian news agency. His government was a mix of Baathist and non-Baathist ministers.
Since he was named PM in September 2003, former parliamentary speaker and long-serving member of the ruling Baath party Mr Otari went through at least four cabinet reshuffles.
In Aleppo, Syria’s second city and his home town, he has also served as mayor, and as governor of the province of Homs.
But according to observers in Syria the government has little power, because it is concentrated in the hands of the president, his family and the security apparatus.
In the next 24 hours the president is expected to address the nation in order to announce that he is lifting the emergency law and restrictions on civil liberty.
Syrian authorities have been asking the president to lift the state of emergency in force since the ruling Baath party took power in 1963. The continued imposition of the law has been justified by Syrian governments by the state of war that exists with Israel, and by threats posed by militant groups.
According to lawyers authorities have used it to ban protests, justify arbitrary arrests and closed courts and give free rein to the secret police.
On Tuesday in central Damascus and in other major cities, tens of thousands of people have been staging a demonstration in support of the president who is attempting to reassert his authority.
But in the cities of Deraa and Latakia (map, from bbcimg.co.uk), tension has been rising.
The protests in Syria started in southern Deraa, where at least 61 people were killed in the past 10 days, after the arrest of several teenagers who scrawled anti-government graffiti on a wall. Then it quickly spread to other provinces.
In the northern city of Latakia security forces were deployed on Sunday, following violent protests which left at least 12 people dead.
On Friday at least 10 people were killed at a protest in Sanamin.
In 2000 Bashar al-Assad succeeded his father as president. But the country’s use of violence against peaceful protesters has been criticised by the West and even by close ally Turkey.