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Syrian President joins supporters in Damascus square

01-12-2012 07:16 BJT

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Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad made a rare public appearance on Wednesday, joining thousands of his supporters at a pro-regime rally in the capital. The president has made very few public appearances since the unrest against his rule began 10 months ago.

Security guards surrounded President Bashar Al-Assad as supporters waved his portraits and raised Syrian flags.

Syrian President Bashar Assad, center, addresses supporters during
a rally at a central square in Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, Jan. 11,

Dressed more casually than usual in a jacket but no tie, the president told the cheering crowd that he wanted to draw strength from them.

Bashar Al-Assad said: "I wanted to be with you in Damascus, in the heart of the capital of A-Sham which some parties wanted to revert from the land of harmony, love and peace to a land of destruction, killing and ruins. But, they will not succeed in achieving this goal."

Assad’s smiling wife and children were seen at the front of the crowd in the capital’s central Umayyad Square.

The public appearance came a day after he gave his first speech since June, warning he would strike back with an "iron hand" at those who threaten his government.

In both appearances, Assad appeared determined to show strength and confidence as the conflict in Syria is entering a new and heightened phase, with army defectors and some members of the opposition increasingly turning weapons on government targets.

Assad, who inherited power from his father in 2000, has blamed the revolt on foreign-backed terrorists and conspirators.

People wave national flags as they attend a rally to show support for Syria's
President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus January 11, 2012, in this handout photograph
released by Syria's national news agency SANA.

People unfurl a giant flag as they attend a rally to show support for Syria's
President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus January 11, 2012 in this handout photograph
released by Syria's national news agency SANA.

A pro-Syrian regime protester kisses a portrait of Syrian President Bashar Assad
during a demonstration in his support at a central square in Damascus, Syria,
Wednesday Jan. 11, 2012.


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