Syria's Assad halts parliament speech over low blood pressure: state TV

President Bashar al-Assad said he needed to sit down before suddenly exiting the room full of lawmakers.

al-monitor Syrian solider Ghayath Dayub is welcomed by his comrades upon arrival from Hama under a billboard bearing a portrait of President Bashar al-Assad and reading in Arabic "Aleppo is the apple of my eye" in Syria's northern city of Aleppo, where Dayub was wounded during battles with rebel fighters, on Aug. 12, 2020. The wounded soldier did the 135-kilometer (84-mile) trip in a show of "loyalty to Syria and support to the army," which has been battling opposition fighters since 2011. Photo by AFP via Getty Images.

Aug 12, 2020

Low blood pressure forced Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to briefly stop his speech to parliament, state television said today. 

The 54-year-old leader was speaking to the assembly for the first time since last month’s parliamentary elections. He stopped for multiple sips of water, telling the audience, “My blood pressure has dropped and I need to drink water.”

"I need to sit for a minute if you don't mind,” he told the room full of masked, distanced lawmakers, according to The Associated Press

Assad suddenly got down from the podium and left the room for “a few minutes,” according to the office of the Syrian presidency, which said he suffered a slight drop in his blood pressure. 

Upon returning to a cheering room, Assad joked that “doctors are the worst patients” and blamed the situation on going without food. 

Assad, a former ophthalmologist, isn’t reported as having any significant health problems. His wife, first lady Asma Assad, recovered from breast cancer last year. 

During his speech, Assad blamed American sanctions for his country’s most recent economic woes, including a currency that has plunged to historic lows. Ahead of Washington’s so-called Caesar Act sanctions in June, the Syrian pound tumbled to a record 3,000 to the US dollar. 

The US sanctions regime is designed to put economic pressure on Assad, who has presided over a conflict that has left hundreds of thousands dead and created the world’s worst refugee crisis. 

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