06/17/2005, 00.00
SYRIA
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Assad begins to shake up the regime, General Suleiman dismissed

by Jihad Issa

Damascus (AsiaNews) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is also the leader of the ruling Baath party, has decided to fire his two Vice-Presidents Abdel-Halim Khaddam and Mohammed Zouhair Musharaqah. The announcement is scheduled for Sunday 19, some sources report.

President al-Assad has also dismissed General Bahjat Suleiman, Internal Security Forces Chief in the General Intelligence Department (state security), who was considered for many years the strongman of Syria's secret services.

The moves come a few days after the Baath party's congress where "pledges to make Syria more democratic" were made.

The congress was "the government's last chance to implement real reform before it is too late," Hassan Abdel Azim, spokesman for Syria's opposition, told AsiaNews. "If it does not follow the congress's recommendations, it will collapse," he said.

Pressures from the United States and the European Union have placed additional pressure for change. And United Nations Resolution 1559 shows how serious the international community is in seeing Syria change.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has sent his special envoy, Norwegian diplomat Tery Lord Larssen, to supervise the implementation of resolution 1559, which called for the total withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.

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