Arafat Bids Farewell to Old Foe, Offers Condolences to Family
Damascus – Albawaba.com
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat paid respect to the late Syrian president Hafez Assad at the People’s Palace in Damascus Tuesday, and extended his condolences to Assad’s family and Syria’s cabinet members.
Arafat met for ten minutes with Bashar, Assad’s son and heir apparent, before shaking hands with mourners.
The Palestinian president, who was on row with the late Assad, also embraced Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas, who last year issued a smarting verbal attack against Arafat in the latest series of extremely tense relations between Syria and the PLO.
Arafat arrived in Damascus on the same plane with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and he was accompanied at the services with Palestinian leaders and officials. These included Naif Hawatmeh, secretary general of the Democratic Front of the Liberation of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, secretary of the Executive Committee of PLO, Khalid Fahoum, former speaker of the Palestinian National Council, and Farouq Qaddoumi head of the Political Department at the PLO.
Arafat, who saluted the laid coffin, was in media’s spotlight. It is not known so far whether Arafat would hold talks with Bashar Assad or the Syrian officials on the sidewalks of the event.
Unlike US state secretary Madeleine Albright and Mubarak who were received separately in a side room by Bashar, Arafat met with Assad’s son in the large lobby of the Palace.
Albawba.com has learned that Arafat has asked to accompany the cortege to Kerdaha town where Assad will be laid to rest.
Arab and foreign leaders attending the funeral will not be at Kerdaha Tuesday afternoon, as they paid condolences at the Palace.
This is the first time Arafat visits Damascus in four years; the last time he came here was in April,1996. In 1988, The Palestinian leader paid homage at the grave of his deputy Khalil Wazir, days after the latter was assassinated at the hands of the Israeli Mossad in Tunis.
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