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Middle East
Assad set to speak on Syrian TV
Syrian president to make rare media appearance as UN team arrives in Damascus to assess humanitarian situation.
Last Modified: 21 Aug 2011 13:22
Assad has rarely spoken publicly since protests against his rule began in March [REUTERS]

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is expected to give an interview to Syrian television on Sunday as a United Nations team begins work assessing the scale of the country's humanitarian crisis after a months-long security crackdown.

Syria's state news agency, SANA, said Assad would give "a comprehensive interview about the current situation in Syria." He would discuss political reforms, as well as the "implications of US and Western pressures on Syria politically and economically".

Assad's television appearance will be his first since June 20, and only his fourth since the start of demonstrations in mid-March.

His expected interview comes as a UN humanitarian team began its mission to assess the situation in the country.

A UN spokesman said the mission's objectives were "to see how the UN can support public services and how it can respond to possible humanitarian needs," such as electricity, drinking water, communications and health.

Rashid Khalikov, head of the Geneva bureau of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, is leading the team which will stay in Syria until August 25.

Opposition meeting

Meanwhile, opponents of Assad met in Turkey to launch a "national council".

Participants in two days of meetings in an Istanbul hotel, from both inside and outside Syria, planned to set up working groups and draft measures aimed at ousting Assad, organisers said.

"The Syrian national council will have between 115 and 150 members, more than half of whom are in Syria, with the remainder in exile," dissident Obeida al-Nahhas told AFP.

Spotlight
In-depth coverage of escalating violence across Syria
US-based lawyer and activist Yasser Tabbara said: "Our priority number one is to topple the regime" in Syria.

"This is a consultative meeting to discuss the establishment of a national council that would be a platform to bring together all different sections of the Syrian opposition and representatives from the pro-democratic movement in Syria".

The meeting was held as army operations continued across the country, with heavy troop deployments in Homs province.

Activists said Syrian forces had killed two civilians in house raids in the town of Rastan on Saturday.  

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 34 people were killed on Friday - 15 in the southern Deraa province, 16 in Homs and three in the Damascus suburbs of Douma and Harasta.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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