Assad, 69: World Leaders, Arab League Mourn Syria’s President

Published June 10th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Shortly after the death of Syrian President Hafez Assad, reactions poured from different parts in the world mourning the president’s passing away, highlighting the good attributes of Assad and his commitment to peace. In Lebanon, mourning took the form of explosions and shots, said reports. Meanwhile Iraq reported the death without comment.  

 

CLINTON: WE HAD DIFFERENCES, BUT I RESPECTED HIM 

 

US president Bill Clinton said in mourning of Assad Saturday that despite his differences with the late leader, he "always respected him," reported AFP. 

"We had our differences, but I always respected him ... Throughout my contacts with him, including our last meeting, he made clear Syria's continued commitment to the path of peace," said Clinton, who was expected to make further public remarks on the subject later Saturday. 

Clinton expressed his feelings as saying "I am saddened by the news of President Assad's death and want to offer my condolences to his family and the Syrian people," Clinton said in a statement from Minnesota, where he was traveling. 

"Over the past seven years, I have met him many times and gotten to know him very well," Clinton said 

 

 

ISRAEL OFFERS CONDOLENCES TO SYRIA, PROMISES TO GO AHEAD WITH PEACE  

 

ADFP said Israel offered condolences to Syria on the death of President Assad and promised to work for peace with his successor. 

"The government of Israel understands the sorrow of the Syrian people," said a statement issued by the prime minister's office in Jerusalem. 

The statement spotlighted the peace process clearing that "Israel has worked in the past to achieve a peace agreement with Syria, and will continue to work in that direction with whatever new leadership" succeeds Assad. 

"Israel regards with great importance the preservation of quiet on its border with Syria and Lebanon, and hopes that Syria will relate to this situation in the same way," said the statement, quoted on Israeli television. 

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said in a public radio broadcast earlier Saturday that while his government was not in contact with Syria, the two sides had "a strategic need and an exceptional occasion" to reach an agreement. 

After Assad's death was announced, Israeli radio and television interrupted their regularly scheduled programs to issue bulletins on the situation in Syria and broadcast footage of the Syrian parliament meeting in extraordinary session. 

Israel's chief negotiator with Syria, Itamar Rabinovitch, said: "Now in Syria everything is open on the domestic scene, Assad's not having had the time to prepare his son Bashar, and a power struggle is beginning." 

"Everything is also open concerning foreign policy and especially the peace negotiations with Israel," the former Israeli ambassador to Washington said. 

Back "in 1970, when (Egyptian) President Nasser died, no one would have imagined that his successor, Anwar Sadat, would make peace with Israel," he added. 

 

ARAB LEAGUE "DEEPLY SADDENED" BY PASSING OF ASSAD 

 

The Arab League said it was deeply saddened by the death Saturday of the Syrian president, whom it called a hero of both war and peace. 

League secretary general Esmat Abdel Meguid decreed a mourning period of one week and ordered the organization's flags lowered to half staff. 

"I announce to the Arab and Muslim world the death of one of the heroes of war and of peace who devoted his life to serving the Arab and Islamic nations and fighting for the recovery of their land and of Arab rights," he said in a message of condolence to the Syrian people. 

Abdel Meguid hailed "this warrior-leader ... one of the leaders who sacrificed his life to defend the homeland." 

He expressed hope that "the Syrian people will pass through this crisis peacefully and overcome their pain to move forward on the road to development and peace." 

 

IRAQ REPORTS ASSAD'S DEATH WITHOUT COMMENT 

 

Iraqis learned of the death Saturday of the Syrian President from the official state radio station which made no comment. 

"Syrian television announced at 1900 hours Baghdad time the death of Syrian President Hafez al-Assad of a heart attack," the report said. 

Relations between Iraq and Syria, which are ruled by rival branches of the Baath party, broke down in 1980 at the start of the Iran-Iraq war. 

Damascus backed Tehran in the eight-year campaign and then joined the US-led international coalition which ousted Iraqi forces from Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf war. 

Assad, 69, who ruled Syria with an iron hand for nearly 30 years, was a key player on the Middle East scene. 

 

MOSCOW HOPES ASSAD'S DEATH WILL NOT HURT THE PEACE PROCESS  

 

The Russian foreign ministry expressed deep regret at the death of Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, saying it hoped it would not damage the Middle East peace process, Itar-Tass agency reported. 

A highly-placed ministry official said Assad had played a key role in the peace process. 

Moscow, which was Syria's main supplier of arms until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, is a main broker in the peace process along with the US. 

Russia's former foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov he was saddened by the news of Assad's death. 

"I have known Hafez al-Assad since 1966. I had great respect for him. He was a wise statesman who ran his country under the difficult conditions of confrontation with Israel and the West," Primakov told the Moscow Echo radio 

 

 

BLAIR PAYS TRIBUTE TO ASSAD 

 

British Prime Minister Tony Blair paid tribute Saturday Assad. 

Blair praised Assad's contribution to the Middle East peace process and said he hoped his death would "redouble" efforts in the region to find a lasting peace. 

Blair's spokesman said the prime minister had expressed his condolences to Assad's family and to the Syrian people. 

 

SHOTS, EXPLOSIONS ROCKED BAALBEK IN MOURNING ASSAD'S DEATH 

 

Shots and explosions were heard across the city of Baalbek in Syrian-patrolled eastern Lebanon to mourn the death of Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, an AFP correspondent said. 

Several explosions and volleys of automatic weapon fire were heard for more than 15 minutes in Baalbek, he said. 

It was not immediately known whether the shots were fired by Lebanese residents or Syrian troops – Albawaba.com 

 

 

 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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