Widow of former Syrian vice president Abdul Halim Khaddam dies

Najat Marqabi and her husband sent help from exile in France to fellow Syrians affected by Assad regime violence

This file picture dated 10 January 2001 shows Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam with his wife Najat Maraqbi (R) at Damascus airport. Khaddam, 69, collapsed unconscious as he was giving a speech in the northern Lebanese port of Tripoli 03 June 2001. Lebanese and Syria state televisions said he was  in satisfactory condition, after earlier reports that he had suffered heart problems. (Film)  AFP PHOTO/Louai BESHARA (Photo by LOUAI BESHARA / AFP)
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The widow of Abdul Halim Khaddam, the former Syrian vice president turned opposition figure, has died less than two weeks after her husband's death from a heart attack in exile.

A family announcement said Najat Marqabi was buried at the Islamic cemetery in Paris on Wednesday.  She died of natural causes.

“The blow from his death was too big. They were very close,” a friend of the couple in Abu Dhabi said.

The couple were married for decades and had four children.

Khaddam, who is from the port city of Banias, died on March 31 at age 88. Marqabi was from Damascus.

Banias was a protest hub when the Syrian revolt against five decades of Assad family rule broke out in March 2011.

Khaddam quietly channeled substantial sums to help people from his hometown and surrounding villages when regime forces cracked down on the area. Hundred of civilians were killed, opposition activists in Banias said at the time.

“Abdul Halim and Najat helped from Paris so many needy people inside Syria and abroad without saying a word,” the friend said.

Khaddam left Syria for France after the killing of his Lebanese ally Rafik Hariri in February 2005. UN investigators interviewed Khaddam about the inner working of a regime he knew by heart.

A Sunni Muslim, Khaddam was a Baath Party stalwart and an astute politician who allied with the Assad family till he thought the Alawite-dominated regime went too far in what he believed was its murder of Hariri.

Khaddam became foreign minister when Hafez Al Assad took power in a 1970 and was Assad’s de facto political representative in Lebanon.

The UN investigation implicated high-level Syrian security officials in the Hariri killing, and an international tribunal in the Netherlands indicted several Hezbollah operatives who are being tried in absentia.