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Abdul Halim Khaddam ( ; born 15 September 1932 in Baniyasmarker) is a Syrian politician and former Vice President of Syria.

Early life and career

Abdul Halim Khaddam was born on 15 September 1932 in Baniyasmarker, Syriamarker, Abdul Halim was one of the few Sunni Muslims to make it to the top of the Alawite-dominated Syrian leadership, Khaddam was long known as a loyalist of Hafez al-Assad, and held a strong position within the Syrianmarker government. He served as foreign minister of Syria from 1970 to 1984 and as Vice President of Syria from 1984 to 2005. He was interim President of Syria from June 10 to July 17, 2000, between the death of Hafez and the election of his son (The election was undemocratic and the results were unbelievable where the ba'ath claims 97% of the votes) , Bashar al-Assad, as the new President. At the time, there were rumours in Damascusmarker that Khaddam would try to seize power.

Resignation

As the new President strengthened his grip on the Baathist bureaucracy, Khaddam, and other members of the "old guard" of the government, gradually lost influence. He announced his resignation on 6 June 2005, during the Ba'th Party Conference. That made him one of the last influential members of the "old guard" to leave the top tier of the government. The announcement came at a point when his political wings had already been clipped, but still the most powerful Sunni member in an Alawi Shi'ite government. After resigning, he relocated to Paris, France, ostensibly to write his memoirs[197954].

In an interview with Al Arabiya network from Paris, Francemarker, on December 30, 2005 Khaddam denounced Assad's many "political blunders" in dealing with Lebanonmarker. He especially attacked Rustum Ghazali, former head of Syrian operations in Lebanon, but defended his predecessor Ghazi Kanaan - Syria's Interior Minister, who is believed to have either committed suicide or been assassinated in October 2005. Khaddam also said that former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, to whom Khaddam was considered close, "received many threats" from Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. The assassination of al-Hariri in February 2005 triggered the massive protests that eventually ended the 30-year long Syrian military presence in Lebanon.

Exile

The Syrian parliament responded the next day by voting to bring treason charges against him, and the Baath Party expelled him. Following the Khaddam interview, the UN Commission headed by Detlev Mehlis investigating the al-Hariri murder said it had asked the Syrian authorities to question Bashar al-Assad and Syria's Foreign Minister Faruq al-Sharaa. According to the Lebanese Daily Star newspaper, the Commission has interviewed Khaddam on January 5, 2006.

On 14 January Khaddam announced that he was forming a 'government in exile', predicting the end of al-Assad's government by the end of year 2006. His accusations against al-Assad and his inner circle regarding the al-Hariri murder also grew more explicit: Khaddam said he believed that al-Assad ordered al-Hariri's assassination.

Khaddam is the highest ranking Syrian official to have publicly cut his ties with the Syrianmarker government, with the possible exception of Rifaat al-Assad, brother of former President Hafez al-Assad, who was exiled in 1983, following an attempted coup d'ĂȘtat.Khaddam leads the opposition group National Salvation Front in Syria that promises to bring down the government of Bashar Assad peacefully. The NSF had its last meeting on September 16, 2007 in Berlin, where some 140 opposition figures attended. On Feb 16th, 2008, he accused the Syrian government of assassinating a top Hezbollah fugitive "for Israels sake." [197955]

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