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|Prime Minister of Syria|
1 November 1987 – 7 March 2000
|Preceded by||Abdul Rauf al-Kasm|
|Succeeded by||Muhammad Mustafa Mero|
|Member of the Regional Command of the Syrian Regional Branch|
7 January 1980 – 21 May 2000
Khirbet Ghazaleh, Syria
|Died||21 May 2000 (aged 65)|
|Resting place||Khirbat Ghazalah|
|Political party||Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party – Syria Region|
|National Progressive Front|
Zuabi was a member of the Ba'ath Party. Under the rule of then President Hafez Assad, Zuabi was appointed Prime Minister in 1987. He presided over a ramshackle purportedly socialist governmental and economic system. Military and government officials exercised immense power and continue to do so. Only oil revenues kept the economy going. Even foreign aid programmes struggled to implement under the weight of bureaucratic obduracy.
Ubiquitous regulations including price-control had the effect most observers say of stifling legitimate enterprise. Many officials are forced into corruption to supplement meager salaries. It is said that corruption extended all the way to the top Syria's government.
When President Hafez Assad was showing signs of poor health in the late 1990s, supporters of his son Bashar Assad started positioning him to succeed him as President. Hafez was also a major player in these maneuverings. Syria is a republic where there was no direct transfer of power envisaged in the constitution from father to son.
As Hafez Assad grew sick, it became clear both father and son had decided that Zuabi's days were numbered. Tackling corruption is a popular cause among most Syrians, who see the immense wealth created at their expense as a reason why the Syrian economy has struggled to grow. The dragging down of once swaggering officials, with punishments including jail and the confiscation and auction of their illegally obtained assets earned Bashar much kudos in the community.
During 1985-2000, Zuabi's administration failed to arrest the 90 per cent fall in the worth of the Syrian Pound from 3 to 47 to the US Dollar.
On 10 May 2000, Hafez Assad expelled Zuabi from the Ba'ath Party and decided that Zuabi should be prosecuted over a scandal involving the French aircraft manufacturer Airbus. Zuabi's assets were frozen by the Syrian government. Zuabi and several senior ministers were officially accused of receiving illegal commissions of the order of US$124 million in relation to the purchase of six Airbus 320-200 passenger jets for Syrian Arab Airlines in 1996. The indictment alleged that the normal cost of the planes was US$250 million, but the Government paid $374 million and Airbus sent on US$124 million to the senior ministers. Three others involved in the transaction, including the former minister for economic affairs and the former minister for transport were sentenced to prison for ten years.
The French company Airbus denied paying off the Syrian officials. The Syrian government in September 2003 announced its intention of purchasing six more Airbus planes for the government airline. The official finding within Syrian courts that Airbus paid over a hundred million dollars in bribes to their officials is apparently not a factor in deciding whether to continue to do business with them, especially with Boeing aircraft and spare parts being difficult to attain due to unilateral US sanctions.
Zuabi died on May 21, 2000. Conflicting reports say he died at age 62 or 65. According to a statement from the Interior Ministry, carried by the official Syrian Arab News Agency, Zuabi shot himself in the head at his home in Dumer outside Damascus. The statement said Zuabi died by suicide after learning that the Damascus police chief had come to his house to serve a judicial notice to appear before an investigating judge to answer allegations of corruption and other violations "that caused great harm to the national economy." An Interior Ministry spokesman said "a shot was heard upstairs and that was a shot fired by Zohbi [sic] at himself by his own pistol on the second floor of his house where his wife and children were present." The spokesman said Zuabi was rushed to the Mowasat hospital in Damascus, where he later died. Hospital officials said none of his family accompanied him to the hospital. In June 2000, according to Lara Marlowe, there were persistent rumours that Zuabi was actually murdered.
Zuabi was buried at his birthplace in southern Syria. His funeral service took place in Deraa province on May 22, 2000. There were no officials at the ceremony. Political sources said the funeral at Kirbit Ghazali, about 100 km south of Damascus, was a simple ceremony limited to his close family members and some of his hometown people.
- "Former Syrian prime minister kills self". Deseret News. Damascus. 22 May 2000. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
- Robert G. Rabil (2006). Syria, The United States, and the War on Terror in the Middle East. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 31. ISBN 978-0-275-99015-2. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
- Ray Hinnesbusch (2002). Syria: Revolution from Above. Routledge. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-415-28568-1. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
- "Bashar Assad". APS Diplomat Operations in Oil Diplomacy. 26 March 2001. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
- "Syria: A commitment to change". Euromoney. July 2001. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- Eur (2003). The Middle East and North Africa 2003. Europa Publications. p. 1019. ISBN 978-1-85743-132-2. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
- "Ex-Premier Commits Suicide". APS Diplomat Recorder. 27 May 2000. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
- Kifner, John (11 July 2000). "Syrians Vote To Confirm Assad's Son As President". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 April 2009.
- "Former Syrian PM commits suicide" BBC News. May 22, 2000.
- Marlowe, Lara. "Syrians fear challenge by Assad's brother" The Irish Times. June 13, 2000.
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