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Assad's wife 'defends Syria crackdown'

07 february 2012, 18:42
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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma. ©REUTERS/Khaled Al Hariri
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma. ©REUTERS/Khaled Al Hariri
The British-born wife of Syria's president has spoken in support of her husband for the first time since the 11-month uprising against his regime began, AFP reports citing a British newspaper.

"The President is the President of Syria, not a faction of Syrians, and the First Lady supports him in that role," The Times quoted Asma al-Assad as saying in an email sent via an intermediary from her office.

The email is her first communication with the international media since the uprising against Bashar al-Assad's regime began, The Times said.

"The First Lady's very busy agenda is still focused on supporting the various charities she has long been involved with and rural development as well as supporting the President as needed," the email reportedly continued.

"These days she is equally involved in bridging gaps and encouraging dialogue. She listens to and comforts the families of the victims of the violence." it added.

The statement came after Syrian forces pounded protest hubs with rockets and shells, killing 79 civilians on Monday, according to activists, and as Britain recalled its ambassador to Syria "for consultations".

Unlike her husband, a minority Alawite, the 36-year-old First Lady is a Sunni Muslim who originally hails from Homs -- the central Syrian city rocked by some of the worst carnage since the revolt began in March last year.

Stylish and charismatic and with a degree from King's College in London where she was raised, the former investment banker had helped promote the soft side of an iron-fisted regime.

But she has virtually disappeared from the public eye since the revolt broke out and had drawn criticism for her silence on a crisis that has left more than 5,000 people dead in her country.

Last month she appeared with two of her children to support her husband of 12 years as he spoke at a pro-regime rally, but did not speak herself.

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