Syrian President Bashar al-Assad took the oath of office for a fourth term in Syria on Saturday, after officially winning 95 percent of the vote in an election dismissed abroad.
It was the second presidential poll since the start of a decade-long civil war that has killed almost 500,000 people and battered the country’s infrastructure.
Shortly before the ceremony, rockets fired by pro-government forces killed six people, including three children and a rescue worker, in the country’s last major rebel bastion of Idlib, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
A reporter in the village of Sarja saw men work hurriedly to remove bodies from the rubble of a collapsed home, before carrying one away in a red blanket.
Al-Assad, 55, was sworn in on Syria’s constitution and the Koran in the presence of more than 600 guests, including ministers, businesspeople, academics and journalists, organizers said.
The elections “have proven the strength of popular legitimacy ... conferred on the state,” al-Assad said in his inauguration speech.
They “have discredited the declarations of Western officials on the legitimacy of the state,” he added.
On the eve of the May 26 election, the US, Britain, France, Germany and Italy said that the poll was “neither free nor fair,” and Syria’s fragmented opposition has called it a “farce.”
Syria’s war has displaced millions of people since starting in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.
Al-Assad called on “those who bet on ... the collapse of the state” to return to the “homeland’s embrace.”
With his campaign slogan, “Hope through work,” al-Assad had cast himself as the sole viable architect of reconstruction.
In his speech, he said that the focus was now on “liberating” areas still beyond government control, and boosting the economy and people’s livelihoods.
After a series of victories against militants and rebels with key backing from allies Russia and Iran, government forces today control two-thirds of Syria.
Syria’s former al-Qaeda affiliate runs the opposition bastion of Idlib in the northwest, where Turkish-backed rebels are also present.
A Turkish-Russian ceasefire has largely held in Idlib since March last year, after halting the latest deadly government offensive on the region of about 3 million people.
However, contraventions of that truce have increased to the south of the bastion in the past few weeks, the Britain-based Observatory said.
Kurdish-led forces control much of the oil-rich east after expelling the Islamic State group from the region with US backing.
Turkey and its Syrian proxies hold a long strip of territory along the northern border.
Al-Assad pledged to wrest the remaining Syrian territory from the “terrorists, and from their Turkish and US sponsors.”
Al-Assad takes his oath as the country faces a dire economic crisis.
More than 80 percent of the population lives in poverty, and the Syrian pound has plunged in value against the US dollar, causing skyrocketing inflation.
Ethiopia’s Afar region on Friday called on civilians to take up arms against rebels from neighboring Tigray, signaling a potential escalation in fighting that has already displaced tens of thousands this week. “Every Afar should protect their land with any means available, whether by guns, sticks or stones,” regional President Awol Arba said in an interview aired by regional state media. “No weapons can make us kneel down. We will win this war with our strong determination.” Tigrayan rebels launched operations in Afar last weekend, saying they were targeting pro-government troops massing along the two regions’ shared border. A government official said on
The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has fully vaccinated 90 percent of its eligible adult population within just seven days, the Bhutanese Ministry of Health said on Tuesday. The tiny country, wedged between India and China and home to nearly 800,000 people, began giving out second doses on Tuesday last week in a mass drive that has been hailed by the UN Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) as “arguably the fastest vaccination campaign to be executed during a pandemic.” Bhutan grabbed headlines in April when its government said it had inoculated about the same percentage of eligible adults with the first dose
‘LIBERATE HONG KONG’: The prosecution argued that the slogan was in the tradition of rallying cries for secession dating back to the Qin and Qing dynasties Three Hong Kong judges are to rule tomorrow whether the protest slogan: “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our Times” is a call for secession when they deliver a verdict on charges against a man arrested at a demonstration last year. The landmark ruling could have long-term implications for how a Beijing-imposed National Security Law against secession, terrorism, subversion and collusion with foreign forces reshapes the territory’s common law traditions, some legal scholars say. Democracy advocates say that a ruling to outlaw the slogan would tighten limits on free speech. The slogan was last year chanted during democracy protests, posted online, scrawled on walls,
For almost 500 years, the arch that connects the largest Gothic cathedral in the world with its Renaissance sacristy has offered visitors a sumptuous, if little glimpsed — and even less studied — vision of religious bounty. The 68 beautifully carved plates of food that adorn the archway in Seville’s cathedral offer rather more than bread and wine. There are pigs’ trotters and wild strawberries, aubergines, clams and oysters. There are peaches, radishes, a skinned hare with a knife by its side, a squirrel served on a bed of hazelnuts and a plate of lemons across which a small snake slithers. There