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Bashar’s replacing Hafez confirmed in Assad dynasty

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June 16, 2000 

DAMASCUS (AP) - Syria confirmed Thursday that its parliament would meet in 10 days to vote on Bashar Assad's presidential nomination, the latest step toward cementing his power in the wake of his father's death.  


Meanwhile, Thursday marked the first normal business day in the capital since President Hafez Assad's death on Saturday at age 69, which plunged the country into a frenzy of mourning for the only leader most Syrians had ever known.Government offices reopened, as did most stores and businesses.

Syrian soldiers carry the coffin of the late Syrian president Hafez Assad, drapped in the Syrian flag at the start of his funeral procession Tuesday, June 13, 2000 in Damascus. Hafez Assad died Saturday aged 69. (AP PHOTO)


Shoppers thronged the city's historic covered market of Al-Hamidiyah, and traffic in the city of 5 million people was heavy.


The country's three main dailies - Tishreen, Al-Thawraa and Al-Baath - continued to pour lavish praise on both the late president and his chosen heir.


"Our dear departed, you will remain in our consciousness forever carrying the flag of struggle, which has now been transferred to Gen. Dr. Bashar Assad," said Al-Baath in a front page editorial.


Information Minister Adnan Omran told reporters that Syria's 250-member parliament would meet June 25, as had been expected, to vote on the nomination. A referendum is then to be held, but no date has been announced.


At a meeting of the ruling Baath Party beginning Saturday, Basher Assad - who up until now has not been a member of the 21-member party leadership - is expected to become party chief. The meeting may last up to five days, Omran said.


Asked about the agenda for the party meeting, Omran said party leaders would "take stock of past experiences, determine the successes and, naturally, deal with whatever was incorrect." He did not elaborate.


Moves to consolidate Bashar's power commenced within hours of the elder Assad's death. The rubber-stamp parliament voted the same day to amend the constitution to lower from 40 to 34 the minimum age for being president. Bashar Assad is 34.


The next day, Bashar was declared commander of the armed forces and nominated as party president - all moves seen as assurances that Syria's hierarchy, including the powerful military, would respect Assad's wish that his son take power when he died.


Bashar, now observing the three traditional days of mourning with his family in their home village of Qardaha, also received foreign dignitaries, including U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who traveled to Damascus for Assad's funeral on Tuesday.


Although Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam has nominally been in charge since Assad's death, he has been little heard from. However, in neighboring Lebanon, the pro-Syrian daily As-Safir published excerpts from what it said was a policy report prepared by Khaddam in advance of the Baath party meeting.


The newspaper quoted Khaddam as saying the past few years had witnessed a rise in corruption and a decline in respect for law and accountability. That may be a sign that an anti-corruption crusade, previously presided over by Bashar, will continue.     

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