Syria’s Designated Leader Says He’ll Follow Father’s Line on Peace

Syrian President Hafez Assad’s son and heir apparent commented on the peace process this week — but there is disagreement about what exactly he said.

On Tuesday, on the sidelines of his father’s funeral, Bashar Assad met with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and vowed to pursue his father’s policies toward Israel.

Every Syrian “is committed to continue in the same way that President Assad was following,” Bashar said after a 10-minute meeting with Albright.

Albright said she was very encouraged by her meeting with Bashar, whom she described as “very poised” and “ready to assume his duties.”

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who was part of the U.S. delegation led by Albright, later said that he interpreted Bashar’s comments as indicating he would not continue his father’s intransigence toward Israel, but would adopt a more flexible approach.

Many analysts interpreted the comments differently, saying Bashar is unlikely to stray from the hard line his father set in negotiations with Israel. Hafez Assad had demanded a total Israeli pullback from the Golan Heights to the June 4, 1967, lines.

While his funeral drew Arab heads of state, Western countries sent lower-level delegations.

Neither President Clinton nor Vice President Al Gore attended because Syria remains on a U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism.

The only Western head of state to attend the funeral was French President Jacques Chirac.

EDITORS: Please add to yesterday’s Russian chief rabbis’ story, in the third graf from the bottom, a reaction from the European Conference of Rabbis:

The Conference of European Rabbis also weighed in on the controversy by saying it would continue to recognize Shayevich as chief rabbi.

UPDATE: The following four paragraphs, detailing Bashar Assad’s meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, update the Sedan analysis sent Sunday. They can be inserted into the original analysis after the ninth graf, which begins, “He told a Lebanese daily that Syria was using Hezbollah fighters as a bargaining chip …”

On Tuesday, on the sidelines of his father’s funeral, Bashar met with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and vowed to pursue Assad’s policies toward Israel.

Every Syrian “is committed to continue in the same way that President Assad was following,” Bashar said after a 10-minute meeting with Albright.

Albright said she was very encouraged by her meeting with Bashar, whom she described as “very poised” and “ready to assume his duties.”

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who was part of the U.S. delegation led by Albright, later said that he interpreted Bashar’s comments as indicating he would not continue his father’s intransigence toward Israel, but would adopt a more flexible approach.

CORRECTION: Graf 18 of the story on Syrian Jewish reaction to the death of President Assad contained an incorrect day reference. The graf should read:

Early Tuesday morning, some 15 men, mostly from the last wave of Syrian Jewish immigration, said their daily prayers at Congregation Sheveth Achim.

CORRECTION: The story on the UJC’s overseas needs sent Monday incorrectly referred in graf 24 to the way Pittsburgh’s federation allocates its money. The graf should read:

Other federations, like Pittsburgh, began using some of their overseas money to directly fund other groups. For its part, Boston launched its own overseas efforts in partnership with the JDC and Jewish Agency.

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