Syrian Vice President Hospitalized
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam collapsed Sunday while delivering a speech at a rally in Lebanon, but hospital officials said his condition was not serious.
The 69-year-old Khaddam, Syria’s vice president since 1984, collapsed 15 minutes into a speech broadcast live on television from the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.
He was rushed to the Nini private hospital, 100 yards from the rally venue. Hospital officials who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Associated Press that Khaddam’s condition was not alarming.
A few seconds before collapsing, Khaddam said, ``I am sorry I will not be able to continue my speech.″
The speech was to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rashid Karami. Tripoli is Karami’s hometown.
The incident prompted former Prime Minister Omar Karami, a brother of Rashid Karami, to cancel the commemoration.
It was Khaddam’s first visit to Lebanon in more than two years. It was not immediately known why he collapsed.
Khaddam was scheduled to travel to Beirut later Sunday to meet with President Emile Lahoud, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who later Sunday planned to host a dinner for Khaddam.
Khaddam served as interim president following the death of the late Syrian leader Hafez Assad in June 2000. The presidency was taken up later by Assad’s son and designated successor, Bashar Assad.
During his career, Khaddam has also served as foreign minister and overseen Syria’s interests in Lebanon. Syria maintains 35,000 troops in Lebanon and is the dominant power in the Mediterranean coast nation.