The Syrian government says it will try on high treason charges former vice-president Abd al-Halim Khaddam, who has accused Damascus
of threatening Lebanon's former prime minister.
The announcement came on Monday after Khaddam's explosive allegations that Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, had threatened Rafiq al-Hariri, Lebanon's former prime minister, before his death. Khaddam made the claim in an interview on Friday on al-Arabiya satellite television.
The official daily newspaper Ath-Thawra reported: "The Council of Ministers will take the necessary measures to try Khaddam for high treason and to open an inquiry into corruption in a series of matters which will include seizing his assets."
The newspaper said the government announcement meant it would follow up on demands made by loyalist members of parliament, who called for Khaddam to be tried for treason and corruption.
Syria's ruling Baath party said on Sunday that it had expelled the ex-vice president for comments it described as "slander which violates the principles of the nation".
Khaddam, long the architect of Syria's military and political domination of neighbouring Lebanon, accused al-Assad of threatening al-Hariri months before his murder, dealing a fresh blow to the increasingly pressured Syrian government.
Khaddam quoted al-Assad as telling al-Hariri during a meeting in Damascus: "I will destroy anyone who tries to hinder our decisions."
Khaddam, speaking from Paris where he and his family now live, said the meeting took place a few months before the 14 February assassination of al-Hariri in a Beirut bomb blast for which a UN inquiry has implicated Syrian intelligence.
"We must await the results of the investigation, but no Syrian security service could take such a decision unilaterally," Khaddam said.
Meanwhile, the UN commission of inquiry investigating al-Hariri's assassination asked to interview al-Assad, Khaddam and Farouq al-Sharaa, the foreign minister, and was awaiting an answer from Syria, a spokeswoman said.
She added that the commission wanted to meet Khaddam as soon as possible.