Damascus, Jan 12 : Syrian President Bashar Assad joined thousands of his supporters on Wednesday in an extremely rare public appearance, telling a pro-regime rally in the capital that the “conspiracy” against his country will fail.
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.
Security guards surrounded him as supporters waved his portrait and raised Syrian flags.
“It is important that we maintain our faith in the future,” said Assad, 46, who has made very few public appearances since the uprising against his regime began 10 months ago.
“I have that faith in the future and we will undoubtedly triumph over this conspiracy.”
Assad, who inherited power from his father in 2000, has blamed the revolt on foreign-backed terrorists and conspirators.
Yesterday, he gave his first speech since June and said he would strike back at those who threaten his regime with an “iron hand”.
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.
Opponents say Assad is dangerously out of touch. US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said Syria had stepped up killings of opponents since Arab monitors arrived in the country in late December to assess whether the government is abiding by its agreement to an Arab League plan to end the military crackdown on dissent.
Yesterday, diplomats quoted UN political chief B Lynn Pascoe as saying about 400 people have been killed in the last three weeks alone, on top of an earlier UN estimate of more than 5,000 dead since March.