Bashar al-Assad's uncle says he cannot survive for long

LONDON. April 3. KAZINFORM The uncle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad believes it is unlikely that he can hold onto power much longer.

Rifaat al-Assad told the BBC that the level of violence on the streets was too high for his nephew to survive.

Mr Assad has lived in exile since he unsuccessfully tried to seize power from his brother, Hafez, in the 1980s.

In February 1982, he led a military assault on Hama to suppress an uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood, leaving between 10,000 and 25,000 people dead.


Although Rifaat al-Assad tried to oust Hafez in a coup while he was recovering from a heart attack and was effectively sent into exile in 1984, he was only formally stripped of his position as Syrian vice-president in 1998.

When Bashar became president following his father's death in 2000, Rifaat criticised the succession as a "real farce and an unconstitutional piece of theatre". He considered himself the legitimate successor.

BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen says that on one level, it is not surprising that Rifaat - from the vantage point of a gilded exile on one of Paris's smartest avenues - has harsh words for the president.

But the points Rifaat makes are widely accepted among the opponents of the Assad regime both in the West and in the Arab world, he adds.

"The problems are now general to all parts of Syria - there are no places that have escaped violence - so I don't think he can stay in power," he told the BBC. "I would say, though, that he should stay so he can co-operate with a new government and offer the experience he has."

Rifaat insisted that the Assad family was still "pretty much accepted by the Syrian people".

"A commission should go from the Arab League and the [UN] Security Council to monitor free and transparent elections," he added.

"Then you will see that the Assad family has got much more importance and support than some of the meaningless figures [of the opposition Syrian National Council] who we see on TV screens now."

What Rifaat meant by that was that he could make a good president - highly unlikely given his years of exile, our correspondent says.


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