Portrait of Abdel Halim Khaddam
From Le Monde, 30 December 2005
Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam, who reiterated his resignation on Friday 30 December from all political functions, was a faithful companion of former Syrian leader Hafez al-Assad before being progressively marginalized from the President’s inner circle.
At 73, Khaddam, a Sunni Muslim who hails from a family of petite bourgeoisie in the town of Banias in northwest Syria, was a member of the Ba’ath Party for 17 years. He was a member of the party’s old guard.
Mr. Khaddam had filled in as interim president of the Syrian Republic following the death of Hafez al-Assad, whom he had supported in al-Assad’s 13 November 1970 takeover of leadership of the Ba’ath Party. Immediately appointed Foreign Minister, Mr. Khaddam worked to free Syria from the isolation into which the radical policies of President Salah Jedid had plunged the nation.
Heavy-set, of medium stature but with sparkling eyes, Abdel Halim Khaddam, known for his frank views, became Vice Premier in September 1974. In this function, this stalwart among stalwarts of Hafez Al-Assad was handed two thorny yet strategic dossiers: Lebanon, Syria’s principal area of influence, and Iran during the Iran-Iraq War. Syria was the only Arab country to have condemned Iraq’s “unjust aggression” (in Syrian official parlance) towards Iran.
In March 1984, Khaddam was named Vice President. In July of the same year, he became Vice President in Charge of Foreign Affairs. He paved the way for the ascension of Bashar al-Assad to the supreme magistracy. But his public appearances became less and less frequent when the Syrian President took personal charge of the “Lebanese dossier”.
Mr. Khaddam was removed from the Lebanon dossier to make way for intelligence chiefs and the Foreign Minister, Farook al-Shareh, his successor as the head of Syrian diplomacy. Despite these developments, Abdel Halim Khaddam continued to be esteemed by and participated in the circle of Syrian leadership until the announcement of his resignation from Ba’ath Party functions and from Government on July 7 during a party conference. His resignation was never officially confirmed by Damascus.