DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syrian Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam intends to resign to make way for the younger generation, an official of the ruling Baath Party said Tuesday.
Khaddam, 73, who wielded considerable influence in Lebanon for many years as Syria”s top official for the neighboring state, indicated he intends to retire on Monday during the first day of the Baath Party congress, said Ahmed Haj Ali, a former Information Ministry adviser.
Rumors of Khaddam”s pending resignation have circulated for days. On Monday, Emigrants Affairs Minister Bouthaina Shaaban, who is spokeswoman for the congress, denied that Khaddam had resigned.
Khaddam became vice president in 1984 after serving as deputy prime minister and foreign minister in the 1970s.
"The man would like to open the way for the younger generation," Haj Ali told The Associated Press. "It is his personal wish. He wants to give a positive example to others."
Khaddam has been a member of the Baath Party”s regional command for almost 30 years. During the Lebanese civil war, he was Syria”s top official for the country, frequently visiting Beirut and heavily involved in the day to day politics of the country.
Khaddam was the only Syrian official to attend the funeral in Beirut of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was killed by a bomb on Feb. 14.
The Lebanese opposition blamed Syria and the pro-Syrian Lebanese government for Hariri”s assassination — a charge both authorities rejected. Khaddam had a close personal relationship with Hariri.
He survived several assassination attempts in the late 70s and early 80s, one of them apparently by the Muslim Brotherhood.