US embassy cable - 00DAMASCUS2976

ASAD SITREP 01: PRESIDENT ASAD HAS DIED; SPECIAL PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE VOTES UNAIMOUSLY TO LOWER REQUIRED AGE FOR PRESIDENCY TO 34, THE AGE OF ASAD'S SON BASHAR; NO OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT OF WHO HAS ASSUMED CHARGE

Identifier: 00DAMASCUS2976
Wikileaks: View 00DAMASCUS2976 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Damascus
Created: 2000-06-10 17:19:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV SY IS
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 101719Z JUN 00
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC NIACT IMMEDIATE 1404
INFO ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L DAMASCUS 002976 
 
NICOSIA FOR ILMG 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 1/26/10 
TAGS: PGOV, SY, IS 
SUBJECT:  ASAD SITREP 01: PRESIDENT ASAD HAS DIED; 
SPECIAL PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE VOTES UNAIMOUSLY TO 
LOWER REQUIRED AGE FOR PRESIDENCY TO 34, THE AGE OF 
ASAD'S SON BASHAR; NO OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT OF WHO HAS 
ASSUMED CHARGE 
 
CLASSIFIED BY AMBASSADOR RYAN C. CROCKER, REASON 1.5 (B) 
AND (D) 
 
1. (C) SYRIAN RADIO AND TELEVISION AT 1800 BROADCAST THE 
OFFICIAL SYRIAN GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCEMENT TO PARLIAMENT 
THAT PRESIDENT HAFIZ AL-ASAD HAD DIED.  THE SPEAKER OF 
THE PARLIAMENT ABD AL-QADIR QADDURA ANNOUNCED A FEW 
MINUTES LATER THAT A SPECIAL PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE HAD 
BEEN FORMED TO DISCUSS AMENDMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION. 
AT APPROXIMATELY 1900 AN AMENDMENT WAS PASSED 
UNAMIMOUSLY WHICH AMENDED THE CONSTITUTION TO SAY THAT A 
PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE MUST BE A SYRIAN ARAB OF AT LEAST 
34 YEARS OF AGE, BUT DID NOT NEED TO BE A MEMBER OF THE 
BA'TH PARTY.  PREVIOUSLY THE CONSTITUTION REQUIRED THE 
PRESIDENT TO BE A SYRIAN ARAB MUSLIM AT LEAST FORTY 
YEARS OF AGE AND, IF NOT RECEIVING AN ABSOLUTE MAJORITY 
IN A NATIONAL REFERENDUM, BE SELECTED BY THE BA'TH PARTY 
FOR FORMAL NOMINATION TO THE PEOPLE'S COUNCIL. 
 
2. (C) IT WAS THEN ANNOUNCED THAT THE PARLIAMENT WOULD 
RECESS UNTIL JUNE 25.  THE AMENDMENT IS CLEARLY INTENDED 
DRAFTED TO ALLOW PRESIDENT ASAD'S SON BASHAR TO BE 
NOMINATED AS PRESIDENT, BUT HIS NAME HAS NOT BEEN 
MENTIONED IN ANY OFFICIAL CONTEXT.  THE CONSTITUTION 
STATES THAT IN CASE OF THE PRESIDENT'S "DISABLEMENT" THE 
VICE PRESIDENT--IN THIS CASE VP MUHAMMAD KHADDAM--WOULD 
BECOME ACTING PRESIDENT AND THAT IN CASE OF THE 
PRESIDENT'S DEATH, A REFERENDUM MUST BE HELD WITHIN 90 
DAYS TO ELECT A NEW PRESIDENT.  HOWEVER, THERE HAS BEEN 
NO OFFICIAL ANNOUNCMENT THAT VP KHADDAM HAS ASSUMED THE 
OFFICE OF PRESIDENT.  THE ARAB SATELLITE STATION AL- 
JAZIRA IS REPORTING THAT IT HAS BEEN DECIDED THAT 
DEFENSE MINISTER MUSTAFA TALAS WILL ASSUME CHARGE 
TEMPORARILY, BUT WE HAVE NO CONFIRMATION OF THAT REPORT. 
 
3.(C) THE AMBASSADOR CONTACTED DEFENSE MINISTER MUSTAFA 
TALAS AT APPROXIMATELY 1745 (BEFORE THE OFFICIAL 
ANNOUNCEMNT), WHO CONFIRMED ASAD'S DEATH AND ASSURED THE 
AMBASSADOR THAT WHILE THE SARG WAS "TAKING APPROPRIATE 
MEASURES," EVERYTHING WAS CALM.  AT 1945, STREETS HAVE 
BEEN CLOSED AROUND THE CHANCERY AND CROWDS ARE AMASSING 
AROUND THE PRESIDENT'S HOME, WHICH IS LOCATED 
APPROXIMATELY TWO BLOCKS FROM THE CHANCERY.  WE HAVE NO 
SIGN OF ANY CROWDS MOVING TOWARDS OR AGAINST THE 
CHANCERY.  CROWDS ARE SHOUTING CHANTS PRAISING THE 
PRESIDENT AND IN SUPPORT OF BASHAR. 
 
CROCKER 

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