Syria's Assad calls for mobilisation in first speech for months

BEIRUT Sun Jan 6, 2013 5:24am EST

BEIRUT Jan 6 (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made his first public appearance in months on Sunday, calling for a "full national mobilisation" to fight against rebels he described as al Qaeda terrorists.

"We meet today and suffering is overwhelming Syrian land. There is no place for joy while security and stability are absent on the streets of our country," Assad said in a speech at the opera house in central Damascus. "The nation is for all and we all must protect it."

The remarks were his first in public since a Russian television interview in November when he pledged to stay in Syria and fight to the death if necessary. A 21-month uprising against Assad has become a civil war that the United Nations says has killed 60,000 people.