Assad makes rare public appearance

DAMASCUS — In a rare public appearance, Syrian President Bashar Assad visited displaced civilians Wednesday in a front-line suburb of the country’s capital, state television reported.

The visit to a shelter for displaced people in Adra, northeast of Damascus, was Assad’s first public appearance outside the capital since August. It comes nearly four months before his seven-year term as president expires. Syrian officials say the presidential elections will be held on time.

Assad has suggested he would run again but hasn’t confirmed whether he’ll seek reelection. The poll must be held between 60 and 90 days before Assad’s term ends on July 17.


‘‘The state will continue to fight terrorism and terrorists who displace people from their homes and commit ugly crimes against them,’’ Assad said in the television report. His government refers to rebels as terrorists.

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Photos released by the president’s office showed Assad speaking to women, several of whom were carrying children. State television quoted Assad as vowing to care for the displaced.

Also Wednesday, the Syrian Parliament met to discuss a new election law that allows candidates to run for president and allows, at least in theory, a multiparty political system in Syria. It was not immediately clear when the lawmakers would vote on the bill.

The country has been ruled by the Ba’ath party since it seized power in a 1963 coup. Since then, it’s been dominated by Assad and his late father, Hafez.

Under their rule, previous elections asked voters to cast ‘‘yes’’ or ‘‘no’’ ballots on whether they supported Parliament’s nomination of them as sole candidates for the presidency.


Syria’s conflict, now entering its fourth year, has killed more than 140,000 people. It has become increasingly sectarian, pitting Sunni rebels against Syria’s patchwork of minorities, including Christians, Shi’ites, and Alawites, the sect of Assad.

Associated Press