Assad to address Syria

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BEIRUT -- Syrian President Bashar Assad will deliver a speech Sunday in a rare address to the nation, state media said, as rebels fighting to topple his embattled regime pressed ahead with an offensive on the capital.

Assad will speak about the latest developments in Syria, the official SANA news agency said Saturday. The speech would be his first since June and comes amid intense fighting between government troops and rebels on the outskirts of Damascus.

Assad has rarely spoken in public since the uprising against him began in March 2011. In previous speeches and interviews, the president has dug in his heels even as Western powers have moved to boost the opposition in Syria's civil war.

The rebels are trying to push through the government's heavy defenses in Damascus, prompting the regime to unleash a withering assault on the suburbs that has included intense barrages by artillery and warplanes.

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Diplomatic efforts to end the Syrian crisis have failed so far to bring an end to the bloodshed, although the international community continues to push for a peaceful settlement.

Yesterday, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal told reporters after a meeting with his Egyptian counterpart in Riyadh that there should be an immediate end to the bloodshed in Syria and called for a peaceful political transition.

Meanwhile, the violence continued unabated yesterday. Rebels and government troops clashed in suburbs south of Damascus, including Harasta and Daraya, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Fighting in Daraya alone left 10 dead, including six rebels, according to the organization.

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