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Syrian president appears for Eid prayers


12:42, August 20, 2012

BEIJING, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appeared in public Sunday, the first day of Eid al-Fitr prayers, while UN observers started to leave the unrest-torn country as their faltering mission officially expires at midnight.

Live footage aired by Syria's state TV showed that al-Assad, flanked by top officials and ministers, performed at al-Hamad mosque in Damascus the special prayers of Eid al-Fitr, one of the most important feasts on the Muslim calendar that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

This is al-Assad's first public appearance since July's blast that struck the national security headquarters and killed four of his deputies, including his brother-in-law.

The embattled president is facing international pressure to step down as the 17-month political crisis shows no signs of ending.

The crisis is getting more complicated as the once-peaceful anti-government movement has dramatically turned into bloody armed insurgency, with reports of al-Qaida presence in the country joining the fight against government troops.

Reports of clashes, kidnappings and in some cases revenge crimes have become daily occurrences.

Earlier on Sunday, six members of the UN Supervision Mission to Syria (UNSMIS) departed for the Lebanese capital of Beirut, sources told Xinhua, saying the remaining 100 observers will all leave Syria by Aug. 23.

According to the sources, seven military observers as well as five civilian ones will stay in the country to run a new office, whose establishment was agreed upon last Thursday at a UN Security Council's meeting.

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