Reports: Syria’s Assad makes rare visit to country’s north

BEIRUT — President Bashar Assad made a rare visit to the northern province of Aleppo on Friday to inaugurate a power station that was once held by insurgents and suffered wide damages during the war, state media reported.

Government-held parts of Syria lasts more than 12 hours of power cuts a day as production is far less than the needs of the country. Syria’s infrastructure saw much destruction during the 11-year conflict.

Syria’s state news agency, SANA, said Assad visited the power station in the eastern part of Aleppo province, adding that part of the station is now ready and can produce up to 200 megawatts. The report said work was underway to also fix other parts of the station.

Friday’s inauguration comes on the sixth anniversary of Syrian troops retaking the station from militants, the report said.

Syrian government forces now control much of the country, thanks to allies Russia and Iran, which have helped tip the balance of power in Assad’s favor. The civil war that began in 2011 has killed hundreds of thousands of people, displaced half the country’s population and left large parts of Syria destroyed.

Syria’s Prime Minister Hussein Arnous recently told parliament that the country’s needs stand at about 7,000 megawatts but stations only produce aa bit over 2,500 megawatts.

Arnous added that a main reason for electricity shortages is that Syria’s production of natural gas dropped sharply during the conflict as some of the country’s largest oil and gas fields are held by US-backed Syrian Kurdish-led fighters.

In November, Syria signed a contract with a group of companies from the United Arab Emirates to build a solar power station in a Damascus suburb. The station will produce 300 megawatts at peak rates.

A month earlier, Syria’s electricity ministry signed a $115 million contract with an Iranian company to rebuild another power station in central Syria.

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