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Thursday, 20 July, 2000, 23:18 GMT 00:18 UK
Syrians end mourning for Assad
Syrians holding up posters of Bashar outside parliament after his swearing-in
Syrians declare their support for their new president
Syria has marked the end of the 40-day mourning period for the late President Hafez al-Assad with a ceremony in his hometown of Qardaha.

Members of the Syrian Government and foreign representatives gathered with the late president's son and successor, Bashar al-Assad, to hear speeches.

Those present included the Lebanese President, Emile Lahoud; the Arab League Secretary General, Esmat Abdel Meguid; and the Israeli Arab parliament member, Azmi Bishara.

Bashar al-Assad was sworn in as president for a seven-year term on Monday after being endorsed in the post by a referendum.

New era

The death of his father on 10 June, after 30 years in power, was widely seen as a turning point in Middle Eastern politics.

Bashar outside parliament after his swearing-in as president
Bashar pledged to modernise the economy and fight corruption
The ceremony of commemoration, broadcast live on Syrian television, clears the way for a new era under Bashar.

In his address to parliament on Monday, Bashar asked for the support of all Syrians as he tries to modernise the economy and eliminate corruption.

He emphasised the need for what he described as new ideas and constructive criticism.

Impatience for change

The new president pledged to continue the policies of his late father, but he said they had to be adjusted to fit the new century.

Bashar helping to carry his father's coffin
The son is sticking to his father's demands for the return of the Golan Heights
He said he extended the hand of friendship to all Syria's neighbours but repeated his father's policy of demanding the full return of the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967.

Correspondents say Syrians have high expectations of Bashar, who has been presented as a moderniser, but say he must deliver soon as Syrians are impatient for change.

They say that Bashar will have to tackle what is seen as an inefficient and frequently corrupt bureaucracy and powerful entrenched interests.

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See also:

10 Jul 00 | Middle East
Syrians turn out for Bashar
21 Jun 00 | Middle East
Analysis: The rise and rise of Bashar
12 Jun 00 | Middle East
Assad brother claims leadership
12 Jun 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Bashar's challenges
12 Jun 00 | Middle East
A funeral from palace to village
12 Jun 00 | Middle East
Pinning hopes on Bashar
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