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Syrian First Lady diagnosed with leukemia

BEIRUT (AP) – Syrian First Lady Asma Assad has been diagnosed with leukemia, the office of President Bashar Assad announced yesterday.

The president’s wife was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia “after presenting with several symptoms and following a comprehensive series of medical tests and examinations”, the statement said.

She will “adhere to a specialised treatment protocol that includes stringent infection prevention measures” and “will temporarily withdraw from all direct engagements” as part of the treatment plan, it added.

Acute myeloid leukemia is an aggressive cancer of the bone marrow and the blood.

Asma Assad has previously been treated for breast cancer. In August 2019, she announced that she was “completely” free of the disease a year after her diagnosis.

Born and raised in the United Kingdom, although her family is originally from central Syria, the First Lady is a powerful figure.

She was an investment banker before quitting to marry the then-newly minted President Bashar Assad, in 2000. She has since maintained a public role, promoting civil and charity groups.

The announcement of Assad’s diagnosis came as her influential NGO, the Syrian Trust for Development, was putting on its annual Damascene Rose Festival celebrating the rose harvest season.

Prior to the announcement of that she would be withdrawing from public events, the First Lady had been widely expected to attend the festivities.

Syria’s First Lady Asma Assad. PHOTO: AP