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    Syria: Confident Assad leaves safety of Damascus to visit recaptured Maaloula

    euronews (in English)

    by euronews (in English)

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a rare appearance outside central Damascus on Sunday, visiting the ancient Christian town of Maaloula.

    Syrian state-run television showed him inspecting the damage done during recent fighting. Government troops recaptured the hilltop hamlet from rebels last week.

    Maaloula is located some 60 kilometres northeast of the capital and is home to a large Christian population.

    The visit highlights growing government confidence after making several gains against insurgents around Damascus and along the Lebanese border.

    Monday is the day Syria’s parliament is expected to announce the date of the country’s presidential election.

    Assad has all but officially said he will stand in the poll – the first time the head of state will be elected rather than chosen by referendum.

    The rules for those wishing to compete against him will prevent any of the country’s main opposition figures in exile from standing.