Syrian president's exiled uncle in Riyadh

AFP , Tuesday 25 Oct 2011

Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's exiled uncle arrives in Riyadh to offer his condolences over the death of Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz

Rifaat al-Assad (Photo/ file: AP)

Rifaat al-Assad, uncle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has arrived in Riyadh to offer his condolences to King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz," Saudi news agency SPA said on Tuesday.

The announcement comes as ties soured between the conservative Sunni kingdom and Syria, where the United Nations says more than 3,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since mid-March in the regime's crackdown on dissent.

King Abdullah on August 8 recalled the Saudi ambassador in Damascus for consultations and called on the Syrian authorities to "halt the death machine... before it's too late."

Rifaat, who now lives in London, was forced into exile in 1984 following a power struggle with Assad's late father, Hafez.

Rifaat, who then led an elite troop, is accused of playing a major role in a 1982 massacre in Hama, bombing the town in central Syria indiscriminately to put down an uprising by the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood.

An estimated 20,000 people were killed in the Hama massacre.

Syrian Vice President Faruq al-Sharaa will represent Bashar at the funeral, reported Al-Watan daily which is close to the the regime.

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