Thursday, January 12, 2006

Syrian Dissidents Look to Ex-VP Khaddam

"He's absolutely an alternative because he's a well-known man," says a Syrian analyst who asked not to be named for fear of repercussions. "He knows how to deal with the people and the country. He has the backing of so many regional and local powers. Otherwise, how would you explain the fury of the government to his statements?"...

Muhanad Baaly, a government worker, says Khaddam could never become a legitimate leader of the opposition. "Khaddam does not care about the future of his country," he says. "He only cares about himself and his children. A man who has been stealing from the country for 40 years, and now he's clean and speaking about democracy?"...

Nonetheless, some of the most stalwart critics of Khaddam and his past say he could at least help the country's floundering internal and external opposition movement gather momentum.

"Perhaps [Khaddam's] role is to quicken the fraying of the regime," says Yassin Haj-Saleh, an opposition leader and writer who spent 16 years in prison under Hafez al-Assad. "He has opened a gap that the opposition can exploit. The Syrian public is now seeing a big man from within the regime say this regime did so and so. So perhaps this will encourage the public and the people within the regime to think differently about the future of the country."

PREVIOUSLY: Rumors of Syrian Coup Rattle Arabs

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