Studying in London for ophthalmology, al_Assad initially had few political aspirations. Hafez al_Assad had been grooming Bashar's older brother, Basil al-Assad to be the future president. However, Basil died in an automobile accident which in turn made Bashar his father's new heir apparent. When the elder Assad died in 2000, Bashar inherited the presidency.
He is often characterized as a very "hands_off" president, due to his political inexperience. Some accuse him of being little more than a mere puppet of hardliners from his father's administration. However, al-Assad has promised economic and political reforms since coming to power.
Despite tense relations with Israel, al-Assad has called for a resumption of peace talks on the issue of the Golan Heights.
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