Syria’s Assad makes rare public visit for Labor Day

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Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad made a rare public visit on Wednesday to an electrical plant in central Damascus to mark Labor Day, the presidency’s official Facebook page said.

“President Assad is now visiting the Umayyad electrical plant in Tishreen Garden in Damascus and congratulates its workers and Syria’s workers on their holiday,” the Facebook page said.

It published a picture of the president addressing a crowd of workers, some of them wearing or holding hard hats.

“Terrorists and those who support them are trying to plunge the country into darkness,” state media quoted Assad as telling the workers, “whether on the intellectual or social level or by depriving citizens of basic services, chiefly electricity.”

He praised Syria’s workers, saying they had “proven again during the war targeting our country that they will always be the country’s strength and that the attacks targeting infrastructure will not stop them from pursuing their national duty.”

Assad, whose government is battling an uprising now in its third year, rarely appears in public.

His last reported public visit was to an educational center in the capital on March 20, and he had not been seen publicly before that since January 24, when he attended prayers at a mosque in a northern district of Damascus.

Electricity production has fallen by nearly half since the March 2011 beginning of the conflict in Syria because of insecurity on the country’s roads has led to shortages of the fuel that powers electricity plants.