Rifaat Assad, the banished uncle of Syria's presidential heir-apparent Bashar, has sought Israeli backing for his bid to seize power in Damascus, Israeli radio reported on Tuesday.
He promised that in return for Israel's support for his challenge to the presidency, Syria under his leadership would act to ensure calm and security in south Lebanon, the radio said.
Rifaat 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, it added, saying Lancry did not confirm or deny the report.
Following the death of his brother Hafez Assad on June 10 after a 30-year iron rule over Syria, Rifaat said he considered himself the "legitimate" successor and branded his nephew Bashar as "incapable".
Rifaat, 63, was stripped of his vice-president's post in 1998 after a long-running dispute with Assad. 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 – OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)