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CNN Today

Syrians Mourn Assad; Seen as Potent Symbol of Arab Nationalism

Aired June 13, 2000 - 2:26 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Syria today bid a tearful goodbye to its longtime leader, Hafez al-Assad. Assad died Saturday at the age of 69, ending three decades of iron-fisted rule. He was buried at his family's mausoleum, following funeral services in the capital, Damascus.

CNN's Rula Amin reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RULA AMIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was mainly silent outside the home where the late president lived. Some who gathered were neighbors, others came from far away.

It took this housewife four hours to get here.

This student says he just felt he had to be here, to stand in silence, to mourn.

"My eyes cry with me. Today is a sad day for Syria," the mourners chanted.

As Syrians glimpsed the coffin, some broke into tears, some tried to get closer. But determined Syrian security kept them at bay. The president's son and likely successor, Bashar, walked behind the coffin and following the family, Syria's political leadership. Hafez al- Assad was to his supporters a true champion of Arab nationalism, a source of pride.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope we will have another person like him in the future, but I don't think so. He's the last Arab leader that we can count on, I think.

AMIN: For now, Syrians pledging support for Bashar to succeed his father. He heard them chant for him and acknowledged it.

Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria with an iron fist, but he also brought stability to this country. Syrians want that stability to continue, many also speak of their yearning for change.

(on camera): As Bashar al-Assad moves ahead to become the leader of this country, Syrians are watching to see if this transition of power will mean a better life for them.

Rula Amin, CNN, Damascus.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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