Syria's Assad appears at Eid prayers as truce starts
DAMASCUS - Agence France-PresseSyrian President Bashar al-Assad made a rare television appearance today, attending morning prayers as a ceasefire took effect for the four-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
State television showed Assad, smiling and seeming relaxed, at an unidentified mosque in Damascus as the ceasefire, which both his regime and the main rebel group have conditionally accepted, took effect.
In a sermon at the prayers, imam Walid Abdel Haq called on Syrians to "stop quarrelling because you are all brothers." "Do you not see what has been happening for two years in the country, the destruction and death? Stop this," he said.
"Syrians must return to God to defeat this sectarian discord that they are trying to create in Syria. We must ourselves create a new Middle East and not the one trying to be imposed... by the enemies of Islam and of Syria." After the prayer, Assad was shown spending time with other worshippers, greeting and chatting with some of them.
As he did, a voiceover on the station hailed Assad's leadership.
"Here is the president greeting the people with his smile that expresses kindness," it said. "How beautiful is this meeting with the people's leader, the leader who is making every effort so that Syria is a country that shines." Assad is rarely shown in public, with his last televised appearance on October 21 when he met with UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.