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Syria's Assad calls for mobilisation in first speech for months

MYT 6:35:00 PM

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made his first public appearance in months on Sunday, calling for a "full national mobilisation" to fight against rebels he described as al Qaeda terrorists.

"We meet today and suffering is overwhelming Syrian land. There is no place for joy while security and stability are absent on the streets of our country," Assad said in a speech at the opera house in central Damascus. "The nation is for all and we all must protect it."

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad walks out of his office to welcome his counterpart from Guyana Bharrat Jagdeo at al-Shaeb presidential palace in Damascus March 22,2009. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad walks out of his office to welcome his counterpart from Guyana Bharrat Jagdeo at al-Shaeb presidential palace in Damascus March 22,2009. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri

The remarks were his first in public since a Russian television interview in November when he pledged to stay in Syria and fight to the death if necessary. A 21-month uprising against Assad has become a civil war that the United Nations says has killed 60,000 people.

(Reporting by Erika Solomon; Writing by Peter Graff)

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