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Syria: President's Uncle, Rifaat Assad, Says Ruling Party Cannot Survive

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Rifaat Assad, who is thought to live in London
Rifaat Assad, who is thought to live in London

The Syrian government is unlikely to survive the year-long uprising which has left more than 9,000 dead, the president's exiled uncle had claimed.

Rifaat al-Assad, who is thought to be living in exile in London and France, told the BBC that the Ba'ath party is probably doomed.

"I don't think he can stay in power," Assad told the Today programme on Tuesday.

"The problems are now general to all parts of Syria - there are no places that have escaped violence - so I don't think he can stay in power," he said.

"I would say, though, that he should stay so he can co-operate with a new government and offer the experience he has."

Rifaat Assad was formerly the chief of the Syrian security forces and later vice-president under Bashar al-Assad's father Hafez, and is widely thought to have commanded the military crackdown on an uprising in Hama in 1982 which left around 15-20,000 people dead.

According to American journalist Thomas Friedman, Rifaat later bragged that at least 38,000 people were killed in the massacre.

He gained the nickname 'The Butcher of Hama' after the brutal assault.

In 1983 Rifaat launched an attempt to seize power from his ailing brother, and was eventually forced to leave under effective exile. He is now thought to live in Mayfair, London, and Paris.

His son Ribal is often described as a leading figure in the opposition movement, and recently labelled Assad's government "a corrupt regime, a regime of killers".

But Ribal denies his father was involved in the Hama massacre, and also opposes the Syrian National Council opposition group, based in Turkey who he says transformed a peaceful movement into an armed uprising.

More to follow.

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