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Syrian President Hafez al-Assad Laid to Rest in Home VillageAired June 13, 2000 - 1:06 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Overseas again, it was a grueling day in Damascus, as the mourning over the Syrian president, Hafez al-Assad, reached a fever pitch.
CNN's Mike Hanna joins us now with some astonishing displays of grief for the only leader many Syrians ever knew. Mike's in Damascus -- Mike.
MIKE HANNA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, certainly a very emotional day here in Damascus. A funeral for President al-Assad lasting well over 11 hours. A procession through the streets of Damascus watched by tens of thousands of people, his coffin was then flown down to his home village of Qardaha where he was born 69 years ago. And there in the mausoleum in the village, his body was finally laid to rest.
This mausoleum was actually built by President Assad for his eldest son, Basil, who died in a car accident in 1994. And so the father is laid to rest alongside the eldest son, ending a period of rule of some three decades in Syria. And handing over, he hoped, to the second son, the 34-year-old Bashar al-Assad, who, at the ruling party here, are intent on having nominated as Syria's next president.
Bashar Assad met foreign dignitaries here in Damascus in the course of the funeral proceedings. He met people from around the world who'd come to pay their last respects to his father and to commiserate with him. Among those he met was the U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright, she had a short private session with Bashar Assad and she said afterwards that they didn't speak for very long. But she reminded Bashar Assad that her father had made peace as a strategy. She says that Bashar Assad replied to her: I will follow in my father's footsteps.
Back to you, Lou.
WATERS: All right, Mike Hanna in Damascus.
Tonight, though appointed -- rather, anointed by his father and apparently embraced by other leaders, Bashar al-Assad may face a challenge for the Syrian presidency from his uncle, Rifaat al-Assad; who has lived in France and Spain since failing to unseat his older brother by force back in the 1980s. Through an aide, Rifaat al-Assad says he's the only legitimate Syrian leader, and he plans to go back home "at the appropriate time" to press his claim. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com
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