Funeral for Syrian Leader's Son Held On Saturday
AN estimated 100,000 Syrians joined President Hafez al-Assad at the funeral on Saturday of his eldest son, Bassel al-Assad.
Bassel was killed in a car crash in Damascus on Friday. He studied engineering at Damascus University, entered the Army, trained as a parachutist, and served as an officer in the presidential guard. He was probably best known as a skilled equestrian.
Bassel was talked about outside Syria as being groomed to succeed his father, but there was no public indication of this.
President Assad has ruled Syria since a 1970 military coup.
Among those at the funeral was Assad's brother, Rifaat, who still holds the position of vice president, but has had no official engagements since returning to Damascus from exile in Europe nearly two years ago.
And scores of dignitaries from around the Arab world attended the funeral. They included Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Lebanese President Elias Hrawi, Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and Jordanian Crown Prince Hassan. Syrians in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights observed 24 hours of mourning.
On Friday, President Clinton, who discussed Middle East peace with Assad in Geneva last weekend, phoned the Syrian leader to offer his condolences. (See story, page 9.)
Israeli officials say they expect that when peace talks resume in Washington today, representatives from Syria will be there.