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As attacks continue, Assad steps out

| Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 7:06 p.m.

Syrian President Bashar Assad made a rare public appearance at a Damascus power station on Wednesday as two bombs exploded near the city center, killing one and wounding more than two dozen, the state news agency reported.

Footage of the visit broadcast on state television showed Assad chatting casually with a group of employees, two days after his prime minister narrowly escaped assassination by an explosion and a day after another major bombing in the capital claimed at least 14.

A 10-year-old boy was reportedly killed and 28 people wounded, some seriously, when bombs went off on Khaled Bin Walid street and the nearby Bab Mesalla square. The news agency said the bombs were planted by “terrorists,” a term the government uses to describe rebels fighting to topple the Syrian leader.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Bab Mesalla explosion was near a police station and originated from rocket fire. It said the blast left casualties but did not have figures on dead or wounded. It said that several people, including children, were wounded in the explosion on Khaled Bin Walid street.

Police had sealed off Bab Mesalla, which has restaurants, shops and a main public transportation station linking Damascus with the southern provinces of Daraa and Sweida, the human rights group added.

In the capital's western neighborhood of Mazzeh, two people were killed when a bomb attached to a bicycle went off. On Monday, a bomb exploded as Prime Minister Wael Halqi's convoy drove by in the same neighborhood.

Assad's visit to the Umayyad Electrical Station in the Tishrin Park district occurred on International Workers Day, or May Day. State TV showed the Syrian leader, confident and wearing a dark business suit, addressing the station's staff and later shaking their hands. Similar still images appeared on a page used by the Syrian presidency on the popular social network Facebook.

“They want to scare us, we will not be scared ... They want us to live underground, we will not live underground,” Assad told a group of workers who had gathered around him. “We hope that by this time next year we will have overcome the crisis in our country,” he said.

Meanwhile, most Americans do not want to intervene in Syria's civil war, although the percentage in favor more than doubles if Assad's forces use chemical weapons against their people, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Only 10 percent of those surveyed in the online poll said the United States should intervene in the fighting. Sixty-one percent opposed getting involved.

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