Rifa’t Assad, the banished uncle of Syria's presidential heir-apparent Bashar, denied Israeli radio reports Tuesday he had sought Israeli backing in a bid to seize power in Damascus, his spokesman said.
"This information has no basis," Hareth al-Kheir said in a statement received here by AFP.
Israeli radio earlier reported he had sought Israeli support in his challenge for the presidency over the last few months, saying Rifa’t promised in return that Syria under his leadership would act to ensure calm and security in south Lebanon.
Rifa’t had made contact through an intermediary with Israel's ambassador to the United Nations Yehuda Lancry, who informed Foreign Minister David Levy of the move, the report went on, saying Lancry did not confirm or deny the report.
Following the death of his brother Hafez al-Assad June 10 after a 30-year iron rule over Syria, Rifa’t said he considered himself the "legitimate" successor and branded his nephew Bashar as "incapable".
Rifa’t, 63, was stripped of his vice-president's post in 1998 after a long-running dispute with the late president. He had been banished since 1995, moving between homes in Marbella, Spain, Paris, Geneva and London.
Israel withdrew last month from Lebanon after the collapse of its allied militia in the region, ending a 22-year occupation.
Peace talks between Israel and Syria, the political master in Lebanon, broke down in January only a few weeks after their historic resumption aimed at ending half a century of hostilities -- NICOSIA (AFP)
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