Bashar Assad, 2000 News
34, Syrian ophthalmologist, was thrust into the international spotlight after his father, Syrian president Hafez Assad, died of a heart attack in June. Hafez Assad had been grooming his soft-spoken son to succeed him, but the president's unexpected death accelerated Bashar's ascent. The younger Assad, who was sworn in as president in July, is widely expected to open the country to the Internet, fight corruption, and seek foreign investment. Observers don't expect him to stray from his father's hard-line course with Israel.