Abdel Halim Khaddam held the Lebanon portfolio until it was transferred by Hafez al-Asad to his son Bashar as a part of his grooming to become president. Khaddam was known to be close to Rafiq al-Hariri, the assassinated Lebanese Sunni politician. When al-Hariri confounded Syrian attempts to fragment the Beirut vote in 2000 by winning 19 of 20 seats, it was Khaddam who helped broker his second stint as Prime Minister.
Assad threatened Hariri before murder: Syria's Khaddam - Yahoo! News: "The Syrian intelligence services could not have carried out such an operation without Assad being informed, he said, when asked if the head of state could have been unaware.
'We must await the results of the investigation, but no Syrian security service could take such a decision unilaterally,' he said.
Khaddam said he had advised Hariri 'to leave Lebanon because his situation regarding Syria had become complicated' in the wake of the threat. 'But, of course, at no time did it occur to me that Syria could assassinate Hariri.'
In late March, Syria denied a report from a UN fact-finding mission that Assad had threatened both Hariri and Lebanon's Druze leader Walid Jumblatt if they opposed the policies of Damascus, the former powerbroker in their country.
Khaddam praised the work of Detlev Mehlis who has led a UN probe into the bomb blast on the Beirut seafront that killed Hariri and 20 other people.
Mehlis was a 'professional and well-known magistrate, and his report was good,' he said. The chief investigator had 'avoided politicising his report (to the UN Security Council) even though the crime was political.'"
Also see al-Jazeera.