Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Wednesday that sweeping new US sanctions amounted to a new stage of economic warfare against his government and were part of Washington’s long- standing efforts to “choke” Syrians’ living standards.
In a statement, al-Assad also blamed the sanctions, known as the Caesar Act, for a fall in the local currency to new record lows, with panic buying of dollars by Syrians worried about their economic situation.
Earlier in the day al-Assad interrupted a speech he was giving to parliament after he suffered a brief drop in blood pressure, the Syrian presidency said Wednesday.
The office said the speech was halted for “several minutes” because of a “mild” case of low blood pressure he suffered, after which he continued the speech as normal.
The presidency’s Facebook page posted that the speech would be aired later Wednesday. It did not provide further details.
Al-Assad, 54, is not known to have any specific health condition.
Al-Assad gave the speech Wednesday on the occasion of the first parliament session after elections were held last month. The vote was the third to take place in Syria since Syria’s conflict began in 2011.
The elections also coincided with Syria’s worst economic crisis and a currency crash, which has dragged more of the country’s population into poverty.