Syrian President Hafez Assad fired his brother from his post as vice president, official television reported Sunday. The report gave no reason for the dismissal.
The firing of Rifaat Assad was the latest dispute between the two brothers, who have had a stormy relationship for years. It could also signal an effort to clear up the question of who would succeed Assad.
The move could pave the way for Hafez Assad’s son, Bashar, to consolidate his power. Bashar recently received a military rank of lieutenant colonel. He also was named commander-in-chief of the Republican Guards, steps in grooming him for power.
The question of who will succeed Assad, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1970, is very sensitive in Syria. It was believed he was grooming his oldest son, Basil, to succeed him. But Basil was killed in an automobile accident in 1994.
Assad has three sons, but Bashar has been given more prominence in Syrian media since his brother’s death.