Syria’s first lady says rejected offers to leave country

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Damascus—Syria’s first lady Asma al-Assad said she rejected multiple offers to flee the war-ravaged country with her children, according to an interview with broadcaster Russia24 aired on Tuesday. The comments were part of the British-born Assad’s first interview with international media since Syria’s revolt erupted in 2011 with demands for her husband Bashar’s ouster. “I never thought of being anywhere else at all. … Yes, I was offered the opportunity to leave Syria, or rather to run from Syria,” the 41-year-old said. “These offers included guarantees of safety and protection for my children, and even financial security.” “It doesn’t take a genius to know what these people were really after. It was never about my wellbeing or my children — it was a deliberate attempt to shatter people’s confidence in their president,” she said. The full interview with Russia24 is to be aired later Tuesday. Asma’s marriage to Bashar was announced by state media around six months after he assumed the presidency in July 2000 following the death of his father Hafez. The former investment banker styled herself as a progressive rights advocate and was seen as the modern side of the Assad dynasty. She did not appear much in public in the first few years of the uprising, but over the past two years has been a lot more active. The mother-of-three has stood at her husband’s side in his rare public appearances, posing for selfies with supporters in pictures posted to the presidency’s Instagram account. With the death toll in Syria’s conflict now at least 300,000, Asma has been seen smiling beside children, athletes and graduates in shared images the United States has denounced as “a despicable PR stunt”.—AFP