Assad to deliver speech on political issues

Syrian President Bashar Assad will deliver a "political speech" Thursday touching on all current political issues and the internal situation, the official news agency reported in a rare advance announcement of a presidential speech. The agency did not elaborate, but the speech is expected to focus on the increasing pressure Syria is facing over the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The speech could contain Damascus' answer on whether it will allow questioning of Syrians by the UN investigators. Syria received an official UN request last week to question six Syrian officials in its investigation. It has not yet responded to the request. Syria has been under heavy pressure since the UN Security Council last week passed a resolution that upgraded the powers of commission, giving chief investigator Detlev Mehlis the right to question anybody at any location and under conditions of his choice. The resolution demanded that Syria cooperate fully with the commission and warned the country of further measures if it failed to do so. Syria has said it will fully cooperate with the investigation. It is rare for Syria to announce the president's speeches in advance unless there is a significant policy decision. The last time a speech was announced beforehand was in March, when Assad declared Syria's army would withdraw from Lebanon.