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Syria's foreign minister has successful heart surgery, reports says

By Saad Abedine and Jason Hanna, CNN
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Fri March 14, 2014
Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem at the United Nations headquarters on January 31, 2014 in Geneva.
Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem at the United Nations headquarters on January 31, 2014 in Geneva.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Walid al-Moallem had successful surgery, SANA reports
  • Sources: He was admitted to hospital in Lebanon

(CNN) -- Syria's top diplomat underwent successful heart surgery, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported Friday.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem was admitted to an intensive care unit in Lebanon -- at the American University of Beirut Medical Center -- on Thursday to address a heart issue, diplomatic sources told CNN hours before the SANA report.

SANA's report did not say where al-Moallem had his surgery.

Doctors at the hospital first attempted a cardiac catheterization, but the procedure failed, and doctors then considered open-heart surgery, the diplomatic sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The state media report said the surgery was "pre-planned." It provided no other details.

A nurse at the Lebanon facility confirmed to CNN that al-Moallem was admitted to the hospital, and said she didn't have information about his condition.

The nurse spoke on condition of anonymity because she is not authorized to speak to the news media.

Photographs of victims of the Bashar al-Assad regime are displayed as a Syrian Army defector known as "Caesar," center, appears in disguise to speak before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The briefing is called "Assad's Killing Machine Exposed: Implications for U.S. Policy" in Washington on Thursday, July 31. "Caesar" was apparently a witness to al-Assad's brutality and has smuggled more than 50,000 photographs depicting the torture and execution of more than 10,000 dissidents. Photographs of victims of the Bashar al-Assad regime are displayed as a Syrian Army defector known as "Caesar," center, appears in disguise to speak before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The briefing is called "Assad's Killing Machine Exposed: Implications for U.S. Policy" in Washington on Thursday, July 31. "Caesar" was apparently a witness to al-Assad's brutality and has smuggled more than 50,000 photographs depicting the torture and execution of more than 10,000 dissidents.
Syrian civil war in 2014
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Photos: Syrian civil war in 2014 Photos: Syrian civil war in 2014
Songs on the Death of Syria's Children

The medical center's media office declined to comment, citing medical privacy rights.

Al-Moallem has been one of the most prominent public faces for Syria's government during the country's roughly three-year civil war, which the United Nations says has killed well over 100,000 people and injured more than 680,000 others.

Last month, al-Moallem, a firm defender of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, met with the international group charged with removing chemical weapons from Syria, discussing the program's progress, SANA said.

Chemical weapons are being removed from Syria under a deal the country made with world powers to stave off an American military strike, which was threatened after allegations the Syrian government used sarin nerve gas in an August 21 attack on a Damascus suburb.

READ: Amanpour blog: Millions of children affected by Syria war a 'strategic issue'

READ: Islamists in Syrian city offer Christians safety -- at a heavy price

CNN's Nada Husseini and Ben Brumfield contributed to this report.

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