KHADDAM, Abd al-Halim

Syrian politician, born in 1932 in Banias to a Sunni-Muslim family. After studying law, he worked as a lawyer in Damascus from 1954-64. He joined the Baath Party and from 1963, after the party assumed power, he engaged in politics full-time. In 1967 he was appointed Governor of Damascus. He joined the government in 1969 as Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade.

Khaddam sided with Hafez Al-Assad in the intra-factional struggle within the Baath Party and when the latter assumed power in November 1970, Khaddam became Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister. Since 1984, he has been one of the three Vice-Presidents, particularly responsible for Syria’s policy towards Lebanon. He was the main force behind the conclusion of the Taif Agreement in October 1989 which put an end to the Lebanese civil war.

Constitutionally, Khaddam is a possible successor to President Assad. He lacks the military background that has become traditional with Syrian top leaders but, as a Sunni Muslim married to an Alawi woman, he might be an acceptable compromise candidate.