Last updated: 14 March, 2014

Syria foreign minister Muallem hospitalised in Beirut

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, who led the regime’s negotiating team at failed peace talks this year, underwent a successful heart operation in neighbouring Lebanon on Friday, Syrian television reported.

Muallem, the chief diplomat of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime throughout the three-year civil war, had undergone tests for a suspected blocked coronary artery, a medical source in the Lebanese capital told AFP.

“Doctors say the heart operation was a success, and Mr Muallem will return to normal life in a few days,” Syrian television quoted Damascus’s ambassador in Beirut as saying.

The 73-year-old was admitted to the American University Hospital in Beirut under tight security on Thursday, the Lebanese medical source said.

“He underwent a quadruple coronary bypass in an operation lasting four hours,” the source said, describing Muallem’s condition as “stable” and saying he will be in hospital for a week.

Radio Liban Libre reported Muallem had been brought into the renowned Beirut hospital through an underground car park accompanied by a large number of bodyguards.

The conflict in Syria has deeply polarised Lebanon, with Sunnis largely supporting the rebels and the Shiite Hezbollah movement intervening militarily on the side of Assad’s regime.

The rift has seen a spillover of violence into Lebanon, with a spate of bombings claimed by Sunni militants hitting Hezbollah strongholds in south Beirut as well as the eastern Bekaa Valley near the border.

Muallem served as Syrian ambassador in Washington from 1990 to 2000 and became foreign minister in 2006.