Syrian regime denies Bashar al-Assad has suffered a stroke after years of 'psychological pressure'

Syrian dictator in hospital in Damascus, according to unconfirmed reports

Caroline Mortimer@cjmortimer
Saturday 28 January 2017 22:55
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Syrian President Bashar Assad
Syrian President Bashar Assad

The Syrian government has denied rumours President Bashar al-Assad has suffered a stroke.

In a statement on Facebook, the government said Assad was in “excellent health and carrying out his functions quite naturally”.

It said “the Syrian people had become immune to such lies” which and said the rumours would only provoke “derision”.

The denial follows reports by a Lebanese newspaper, al-Mustaqbal, which quoted “reliable sources” saying Assad had suffered from a cerebral infarction and was currently being treated in hospital.

Another Lebanese newspaper, al-Diyar, which supports the Syrian regime, also reported on Friday that the dictator had suffered from a stroke but had since retracted the story, the Saudi-owned news channel al-Arabiya reported.

Earlier this week, Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq al-Awsat claimed the president’s mental health was suffering after almost six years of civil war.

Citing unnamed sources it said Russian officials believed Assad was “exhausted by five years of war and tension” and had developed a nervous tick in his left eye as a result of “psychological pressure”.

The rumours come at a time when the tide of the war is turning in Assad’s favour.

After months of heavy bombardment Syrian and Russian forces broke the siege of Aleppo at the end of last year.

Meanwhile over in Washington, Donald Trump’s signalling that he intends to cooperate with Russia more closely on Syria has led to fears that US will lessen its opposition to Moscow’s actions in the regime.

During an interview with The Sunday Times last year Assad said he had no trouble sleeping at night when he was asked if the deaths of children killed in Aleppo and elsewhere weighed on his mind.

Laughing he said: “I know the meaning of that question.

“I sleep regular, I sleep and work and eat normal and do sports.”

Around 400,000 people have been killed during the civil war which began in January 2011. Both sides have been accused of multiple war crimes and human rights abuses.

The Syrian regime has been condemned by the international community in particular for the use of sarin gas on civilians.

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