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>JN June 18, 2000, Vol. 8, No. 104

Arab Car Thieves Return Stolen Police Car

By IsraelWire

The Sharon regional weekly "Sharon Times" reports the car of Danny Hadad, deputy commander of the Israel Police in the Sharon region, was stolen from his home. Haddad had borrowed the car, to use on his vacation, from the Sharon region's special car theft investigation team. The team asked their sources among the car thieves to find the car and it was located in a garage in PA controlled Tul Karem. The thieves first wanted to be paid for the car but in the end agreed to return it. One of the thieves drove it over to the investigators with the assistance of the PLO Authority police.

United Nations Affirms Israel's Lebanese Withdrawal

By Larry Freund (VOA-New York)

The United Nations Security Council (Sunday) formally endorsed UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's finding that Israel has withdrawn its forces from southern Lebanon. The council's endorsement lengthy closed door talks during which the council added a phrase to its statement indicating concern about reports of serious violations of the pullout since Friday.

The Security Council's talks - lasting much of Saturday and Sunday - reflected continued disagreement about the Israeli pullout from Lebanon.

On Friday, Annan proclaimed a day of hope for the region when he said Israel had completely withdrawn from Lebanese territory. But Lebanese officials disputed Annan's announcement, saying Lebanon insists on recovering every inch of its territory.

For two days Russian representatives in New York blocked any quick action by the Security Council. After the private talks concluded Sunday, the Council released a statement reflecting the agreement of all 15 members, including Russia. The carefully-worded document endorses work done by the United Nations, including the Secretary-General's conclusion that Israel has withdrawn its forces from Lebanon. But it notes with serious concern reports of violations that have occurred since June 16, when Annan made his critical announcement at UN headquarters. The council calls on the parties to respect the line identified by the United Nations.

Annan, now in the Middle East, says there are problems concerning the demarcation of the border between Israel and Lebanon. However, he says both sides have agreed on the importance of finding a solution.

Search for Syria's New President Leading to Bashar Assad

By Lisa Bryant (VOA-Cairo)

Syria's ruling Baath party has opened its first party congress in 15 years amid expectations that it will elect Bashar Assad as its leader and formally declare his candidacy as the country's next president. The meeting marks the latest step to bring the son of the late Syrian president, Hafez al-Assad, to power.

There were few surprises at the start of the ninth Baath Party congress, which is being held in Syria's capital, Damascus. The party's assistant secretary general, Suleiman Quaddah, opened the meeting with a speech praising Bashar Assad's leadership capabilities.

Quaddah then eulogized Assad's father, calling the late president an Arab national leader. In successive opening-day speeches, delegates echoed Quaddah's praise for the two Assads.

The party conference is anticipated to last several days and includes hundreds of Baath Party delegates. During that time, Assad -- a trained eye doctor with little political experience -- is expected to be elected head of a 21-member party leadership committee, and as the party's leader. Those would mark Assad's first formal positions in the Baath party.

If the party nominates Assad as Syria's next president -- as is widely anticipated -- parliament would likely endorse the nomination when it meets June 25. A public referendum on his candidacy is expected after the 40-day mourning period for President Assad, who died last week.

Party delegates are also expected to nominate a number of new, younger faces to the aging leadership structure, and to introduce a series of economic and political reforms. Some of the reforms are already underway, including efforts to boost exports and foreign investment in Syria.

The younger Assad is considered a leader behind a newly launched anti-corruption crackdown, which has targeted a number of senior Syrian officials. The party conference caps a week marked by public mourning over President Assad's passing, and private maneuvering to bring his son to power.

Hours after the president's death, parliament lowered the constitutional age for the presidency to fit the younger Assad's (34-years) age. The following day, Syria's vice president promoted Assad to commander in chief of the armed forces.

If Assad is elected president, Syria would become the first Arab republic in modern times to endorse the passing of presidential power from father to son.

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