Tens of thousands rally in support of Assad in Syria capital
Crowd chants 'America, out, out, Syria will stay free,' and slogans warning the European Union not to intervene; many carry pictures of Assad and Syrian flags.By Reuters Tags: Syria Bashar Assad Arab Spring
|Haaretz-Published 12:45 12.10.11|
Tens of thousands of Syrians demonstrated in central Damascus on Wednesday in show of support for President Bashar Assad, who is battling a six-month uprising against his rule in which the United Nations says 2,900 people have been killed.
"America, out, out, Syria will stay free," chanted the crowd, many of them carrying pictures of Assad and Syrian flags. They also shouted slogans warning the European Union not to intervene in their country.
Supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad shout slogans during a pro-regime rally in Damascus on Wednesday.
|Photo by: AFP|
"God, Syria and Bashar," they sang.
State television described the government-backed rally as a "million-strong march ... supporting national independence and rejecting foreign intervention."
At the start of the demonstration a man holding the flags of Russia and China, which both vetoed a European-drafted resolution against Syria at the United Nations last week, flew over the crowd, suspended from a helicopter by rope.
It was the biggest demonstration for months in the centre of the capital, which has been relatively untouched by the protests which have rocked Damascus suburbs and other parts of the country.
Assad has responded to the protests with a promise of reforms and a military crackdown on protesters in which tens of thousands have been arrested, according to activists.
There have also been increasing reports of clashes between security forces and opponents, made up of deserting troops and gunmen. Authorities blame armed groups for the violence and say 1,100 members of the security forces have been killed.
The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Syria and called on Assad to step down. Russia and China have blocked Western efforts seeking UN action against Damascus, but have told Assad he must speed up reforms.