Syria's foreign minister Walid Muallem dies

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DAMASCUS: Walid Muallem, Syrian Foreign Minister and a stalwart of Bashar al-Assad's regime who held his job through a decade of conflict and several reshuffles, died Monday at the age of 79.

 The veteran diplomat, who had been foreign minister since 2006, started his career in the diplomatic service in 1964.

 In 2012, a year after Syria's deadly conflict started, he was also made deputy prime minister.

 The government announcement did not specify the cause of his death but his health was understood to be deteriorating for some time.

 His last public appearance was at the end of last week in Damascus for the opening of a conference on refugee returns. He looked weak and was helped into the hall by two men.

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