The transcription of the statement delivered Monday by Rifa’t Assad on Arab News Network (ANN) and sent as a press release to AFP here was as follows:
"Fellow Brethren, Fellow Arab Citizens of Syria,
"A great leader has departed from the national, Arab and international political scene. With his departure, the Syrian struggle has lost the last noble knight and the most heroic of fighters: the late President Hafez al-Assad.
"As a young brother of the late president I had the great opportunity of growing up beside him and of acquiring the sublime values of loyalty and sacrifice from our homeland in the school of Hafez al-Assad.
"To me, Hafez al-Assad was a father, brother and leader, over a period exceeding a quarter of a century. Throughout this long period, he was the symbol, the role model whose principles and values I hold dearest.
"Dear brother and teacher, Hafez al-Assad, I will, as you have always known me, continue my struggle and remain faithful to all that I have learnt from you. For you have always been the torch that lights my way towards sacrificing for our people and raising even higher the banner of our homeland.
"Those who have succeeded you have gone off your path. They have considered me a menacing danger to them and have deprived me of saying farewell to you, of praying in your presence and of dedicating myself and all that I possess for the cause of freedom, the rights of the homeland and the dignity of its citizenry.
"After your departure, the Action Committee has deprived me of the holiest of rites and the noblest of situations.
"But, O Dear Brother: If they are capable of excluding me now, will they be able to do this in future?
"No, they will never be able to absent you from me. For your spirit is ever present in my conscience and I will always be faithful to my responsibilities which, as I have promised you, I will never shirk.
"O Great departed brother, you have left a sudden and calamitous vacuum which some thought they could easily fill, making light the matter of your succession and the immensity of responsibilities after you. To that end, they have taken certain measures in violation of the Constitution. They have also disregarded the will of the masses, thinking that weeping alone will give them the power and provide them a clean slate to lead and represent the people.
"O Great Departed Brother, Fellow Arab Citizens of Syria
"On this calamitous occasion, I hereby renew the promise I have taken upon myself in the presence of Hafez al-Assad. I promise I will be truthful to my pledge; for it will be a new corrective movement on all political, economic and social levels. Freedom will dwell in Syria.
"Democracy will be established and each citizen will play a part in building the nation and choosing their representatives. I pledge before all that if I failed to carry out my pledge then I would not be the son of Syria or its people.
"Great Departed Brother, Honorable Fellow Citizens
"The differences between me and those administering the affairs of Syria at present are not about the question of succession, but about the embodiment of this succession in terms of leadership, character, experience, resolve and respect for the ideal for which I have struggled alongside Hafez al-Assad to etch and continue without any hesitation or deviation.
"These values compel me to be always present amongst you, by your side, guided by your hopes for a civilized, secure, democratic and prosperous future.
"Great Departed Brother
"Oh how I wish I could embrace you in the last moment of your farewell, despite the cruel prodigality of our children and comrades.
"May Allah Bless you, living and dead, and May you rest in Heaven." -- (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)