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Syria's Assad says new US sanctions are part of drive to "choke" Syrians

Syrians walk in old Damascus in front of a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, on 16 June 2020. [LOUAI BESHARA/AFP via Getty Images]
Syrians walk in old Damascus in front of a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, on 16 June 2020. [LOUAI BESHARA/AFP via Getty Images]

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, Reuters reports.

In a speech to deputies at the presidential palace, 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.

Assad said Western adversaries were waging a long-term economic war that Syria could surmount by raising its food self-sufficiency and by cracking down on corruption, which he said was wasting public funds needed to raise plunging living standards.

"The Caesar Act is not a separate case, it is another phase in stages of sanctions that preceded it for years and which have caused huge damage," he told the deputies.

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Earlier, state media had flashed that Assad had suffered low blood pressure for a few minutes while delivering a speech to parliament before resuming normally and that it would broadcast it later in the evening.

Assad was shown in a pre-recorded speech asking for a chair to rest after he stopped the speech and in the edited footage appeared again on television in front of the deputies.

"Doctors are the worst patients, in truth I have not had anything to eat since yesterday, only some sugar and salt," the 55-year-old former eye doctor said, without elaborating.

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