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Assad appoints first woman as Syrian vice president

Written by: Staff
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DAMASCUS, Mar 23 (Reuters) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad today appointed former culture minister Najah al-Attar as a second vice president, the official news agency SANA reported.

Attar is the first woman to hold such a high position in Syria.

By appointing her, Assad completes filling the country's two mostly ceremonial posts, which became vacant last year.

Assad last month appointed former foreign minister Farouq al-Shara as vice president, replacing Abdel-Halim Khaddam who resigned last year and later defected to France.

''Attar will be responsible for following culture policy according to the directions of the president,'' SANA said.

Attar, part of the old guard in the ruling Baath Party, was culture minister for more than two decades under late President Hafez al-Assad, who ruled Syria for 30 years and was succeeded by his son Bashar in 2000.

Power in Syria rests with Assad and his inner circle, which includes security officials and members of his family.

Syrian vice presidents have rarely held real power in Syria, except for Khaddam, who was a pillar of the system for decades until his resignation and defection.

Khaddam has recently accused Assad of complicity in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, who was killed in Beirut in February 2005. UN investigators probing the Hariri killing are due to interview Shara and Assad in the next few weeks.

A UN probe has implicated Syrian officials in the killing.

Syria denies any involvement in the assassination and Assad has said that any Syrian found involved will be considered a traitor and tried.

REUTERS DKS PM1733

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