06/07/2005, 00.00
SYRIA
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Khaddam, the architect of Syria's presence in Lebanon, resigns

Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Syrian Vice-President Abdul Halim Khaddam stepped down from his post today, Syrian official sources announced during the ruling Baath Party congress in Damascus.

Khaddam, who is veteran leader of the party since it took power in 1963, is considered one of the architects of Syrian policy vis-à-vis Lebanon.

Party sources explained that Khaddam announced his intention to quit during the party meeting but did not give any reasons.

"He declared his intention to resign at the meeting of the (party's) political committee. He said he will present his resignation," Ahmad al-Haj Ali, a Baath member, said. But resigning from the vice-presidency does not mean leaving the Baath. In fact, the party's political committee is not legally entitled to receive any resignations from government posts.

Mr Khaddam was born in 1932 and is one of Syria's oldest leaders, having worked for Hafez al-Assad, father of the current leader, Bashar al-Assad.

He was a Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister before he was promoted to Vice-President in the 1980s.

For decades, he charted Damascus' policy towards Beirut. He was quoted in 1976 as saying: "Lebanon will either be united or will be returned to Syria."

International pressure earlier this year forced Syria to withdraw the troops it had sent to Lebanon during the 1975-1990 civil war.

The United States and the European Union have for years called on Syria to adopt political and economic reforms. 

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