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Assad to address nation Wednesday

DAMASCUS, Mar 30 – Syrian state media has confirmed that President Bashar al-Assad will deliver an important speech on Wednesday, in his first address since unprecedented dissent erupted two weeks ago.

"The president will deliver a major speech to the Syrian people, linked to domestic issues and recent developments in Syria," the official SANA news agency reported.

The report came a day after a senior official told AFP that Assad "will address the country tomorrow, Wednesday, from parliament," without giving any further details.

Assad is expected to elaborate on a string of reforms announced last week, which came in response to two weeks of protests demanding reform and more freedoms in the country ruled by the Baath party since 1963.

Presidential adviser Buthaina Shaaban has told AFP the authorities decided to lift the state of emergency, which has been in force since the Baath party seized power.

The Syrian government is also studying the liberalisation of laws on media and political parties as well as anti-corruption measures.

On Tuesday, Syria\’s cabinet resigned, and the new cabinet, which is expected to be announced by the end of the week, faces the task of implementing the reforms.

Assad, who rose to power after the death of his father Hafez al-Assad in 2000, is facing extreme pressure at home as the protests turn increasingly violent.

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