Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says the country is on a war footing. He described the present period as a challenge for the Middle Eastern state., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
5 January 2013
Last updated at 22:32 ET
Syria conflict: Bashar al-Assad to give TV address
Tens of thousands have died and many more have fled their homes during Syria's conflict
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is to give a rare speech to the nation, state media say, as he continues to battle an uprising against his rule.
The address will cover "the latest developments in Syria and the region", according to the Sana news agency.
It comes amid fierce fighting close to the capital, Damascus.
The UN estimates that more than 60,000 people have been killed in the uprising against President Assad, which began in March 2011.
The speech will be Mr Assad's first public address since June.
In an interview with Russian TV in November - his last public comments - he said he would "live and die in Syria".
Since then opposition rebels have gained control of swathes of territory in northern Syria, and have formed a more inclusive leadership council which has been recognised by the US and the EU.
But opposition efforts to gain ground in and around major cities including Damascus have been met by stiff resistance and increasingly destructive air strikes.
On Saturday the activist Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported fierce fighting in Harasta and Daraya, suburbs of Damascus.
Diplomatic attempts to end the conflict in Syria have so far failed.
UN and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has been pushing a plan approved at an international conference in June that would create a transitional government.
But the plan leaves President Assad's role unclear. The Syrian opposition has insisted that Mr Assad must step down for the conflict to end.
Mr Brahimi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a week ago that a negotiated solution was the only option.