Timeline: Bashar al-Assad in power

Syria's president faces a referendum on Sunday to serve a second seven-year term.

    Key dates in the first seven years of Bashar al-Assad's presidency.

    2000

     

    June: Hafez al-Assad, the former president, dies of a heart attack at 69. He had ruled the country since 1970. He was regularly confirmed in single-candidate referendums.

     

    July: His son, Bashar al-Assad, 34, the sole candidate to replace him, takes power after a referendum. Official results showed he won more than 97 per cent of the vote.

     

    Intellectuals call for political reforms and more openness and begin hosting debating "salons" in what was known as the Damascus Spring.

     

    2001

     

    February: Government begins to bear down on salons, subjecting some to strict rules and closing others.

     

    June: Most Syrian troops are withdrawn from the Lebanese capital, Beirut, with about 20,000 being kept in other parts of the country.

     

    July: The last of the Damascus Spring salons is shut down.

     

    The US imposes sanctions on Syria, accusing it of supporting terrorism [AFP]

    2003

     

    March: Although his father had sent troops to take part in the 1991 Gulf war against Iraq, Bashar al-Assad refuses to support a new US-led invasion of that country – denouncing it as "barbaric aggression".

       

    Over the next four years, more than one million Iraqis flee across the border into Syria.

     

    2004

     

    May: The US imposes sanctions on Syria, accusing it of supporting "terrorism".

     

    September: The UN Security Council adopts a resolution calling for all foreign troops - meaning the Syrians - to leave Lebanon.

     

    October: The EU and Syria initial an association agreement, but the signing is postponed indefinitely.

     

    2005

     

    February: Rafiq al-Hariri, a former Lebanese premier, is assassinated in a Beirut bombing. The West and the majority of the Lebanese people blame Syria, which denies responsibility.

     

    Syria is widely blamed for
    the death of Rafiq al-Hariri [AFP]
     
    April: The last of the Syrian troops leave Lebanon - ending a 29-year presence.

     

    October: Opposition groups issue the Damascus Declaration calling for an end to emergency laws dating back to 1963 and other forms of political repression. Groups also call for a national conference on democratic change.

     

    A UN investigation into al-Hariri's assassination implicates a number of senior Syrian officials and their Lebanese allies.

     

    2006

     

    April: A UN panel interviews al-Assad as Syria faces continuing pressure over the killing of al-Hariri.

     

    May: Authorities arrest a number of Syrians who called for more balanced relations with Lebanon.

     

    A UN Security Council resolution "strongly encourages" Syria to normalise relations with Lebanon.

       

    Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House
    of Representatives, visits Syria [AFP]

    November: Syria and Iraq resume diplomatic relations after a 25-year hiatus.

     

    2007

     

    March-April: After years of diplomatic isolation, al-Assad receives visits from Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, and Nancy Pelosi, the US House of Representatives speaker, and opponent of George Bush, the US president.

     

    April 22-23: Legislative polls, boycotted by the opposition, are held in which the ruling Baath party and allies retain a majority.

     

    May 10: With his first seven-year term due to end, al-Assad makes arrangements for a new referendum.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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