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Wednesday, 14 June, 2000, 01:23 GMT 02:23 UK
Peace call as Assad buried
mourners
Soldiers hold back mourners at President Assad's funeral
Israel's prime minister has called on Syria's Bashar al-Assad to pursue peace with Israel, within hours of his father's funeral.

Speaking on Israeli television, Ehud Barak said he hoped Bashar al-Assad would lead Syria towards peace.

His remarks came as Israeli television aired what it called its "first direct broadcast from Damascus".

State-owned Channel One did not say if the transmission was made with the knowledge of Syrian authorities, who allowed international satellite TV coverage of the funeral.
mr barak
Mr Barak: Hopeful of new peace deal

"I'm not setting a timetable for him. I didn't set one for his father," Mr Barak said.

"I hope that Bashar al-Assad will consider the good of Syria, and give it an opening on the world, stability in Lebanon and peace in the Middle East, a peace which both Syria and Israel would benefit."

Funeral

Bashar Assad led the day of funeral rites for his father.

They began in Damascus with hundreds of thousands of Syrians lining the streets, and ended in Qardaha where crowds of chanting mourners surged towards the coffin as the cortege passed through the town.

His coffin was placed in the family mausoleum, watched by Bashar, who was handed the Syrian flag which had been draped over the coffin throughout its long journey from Damascus.


Official mourners
Lebanese President Lahoud and Prime Minister Hoss
Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah
Iranian President Khatami
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
French President Chirac
US Secretary of State Albright
Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson
UK Foreign Secretary Cook
EU leader Romano Prodi
Former Russian Prime Minister Primakov
Vatican Foreign Minister Archbishop Tauran

Numerous Arab leaders attended the ceremony, along with President Chirac of France, representing the former colonial power.

But most other European governments and the US sent their foreign ministers. US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright snatched a brief private meeting with Bashar as he greeted the foreign representatives.

Mrs Albright said Bashar had pledged to work for peace, and said she found him "very poised".

In an unexpected development, Bashar and the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat greeted each other at great length and warmth.

It was well known that the late Syrian president and Mr Arafat bore each other a deep and personal animosity.
Rifaat al-Assad
Rifaat al-Assad faces arrest in Syria

In the Golan Heights - captured by Israel in 1967- crowds of Druze gathered to mourn the late president after failing in their attempt to cross the border on Monday to attend the funeral.

Challenge

The funeral was partially overshadowed by Monday's statement from Mr Assad's exiled younger brother, Rifaat, challenging Bashar for the presidency.

However mourners on the streets have voiced support for Bashar, chanting "With our souls and blood we follow Bashar".

Rifaat, 62, has lived in luxurious exile in Spain and Paris since 1986 after his "defence brigades" mounted a failed challenge to his brother's authority.

He was stripped of the title of vice-president two years ago, and a newspaper said on Monday that the Syrian authorities had issued a warrant for his arrest.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jeremy Bowen
"A city turned out to see him off"
Dror Zeigerman, Israeli Ambassador to Britiain
"A unique opportunity for a signed peace between us"
Hanan Ashwari, Palestinian Council member
"The ultimate question is that of the Palestinian refugees"
See also:

13 Jun 00 | Middle East
14 Jun 00 | Media reports
13 Jun 00 | Middle East
12 Jun 00 | Middle East
13 Jun 00 | Middle East
11 Jun 00 | Media reports
13 Jun 00 | Middle East
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