June 3, 2012
June 3, 2012
President Bashar al-Assad said Sunday that Syria is faced with a foreign plot to destroy the country, as he addressed parliament for the first time since May 7 elections.
“The masks have fallen and the international role in the Syrian events is now obvious,” Assad said, adding that the elections were the perfect response “to the criminal killers and those who finance them”.
The embattled leader also paid tribute to civilian and military “martyrs” of the violence in Syria, saying their blood was not shed in vain.
During the speech, activist group, Local coordination committees of Syria, said that five people were killed by Syrian security force gunfire, Al Arabiya reported.
“What happened in Houla and elsewhere (in Syria) are brutal massacres which even monsters would not have carried out,” Assad said.
At least 108 people, including 49 children and 34 women, were slaughtered in the Houla massacre, in central Syria, in killings that started on May 25 and spilled into the next day, triggering international outrage.
Syria blames the violence, which the United Nations says Syrian forces have killed more than 9,000 people in a crackdown on protests, on foreign-backed Islamist militants.
The Syrian regime says the violence has killed more than 2,600 soldiers and security force members, according to Reuters news agency.
Assad said that his country was facing a war waged from outside the country and that terrorism was escalating despite political steps including last month’s parliamentary election.
“We are not facing a political problem because if we were this party would put forth a political program. What we are facing is (an attempt) to sow sectarian strife and the tool of this is terrorism,” Assad said in a speech to parliament, broadcast on Syrian television.
“The issue is terrorism. We are facing a real war waged from the outside,” Assad said.
“We are ready for dialogue and opposition forces have said this too, but they have not publicized it … There has been ongoing cooperation for a constitutional referendum despite the threats and terrorism.
“The Middle East’s regional role [during the crisis] has been an embarrassment to itself,” Assad added, seemingly in reference to the Arab League’s intervention during the crisis, which assumed a generally anti-Syrian regime stance.
Assad said the regime will “continue to confront terrorism firmly,” but will not seek revenge on those who “want to return,” adding that the door for dialogue still open in Syria for those who did not seek foreign intervention, or directly support “terrorist groups.”
The speech came a day after international envoy Kofi Annan said the possibility of an all-out civil war in Syria was looming.
Assad’s speech was delivered to the opening session of a new parliament, elected last month under a new constitution that authorities have portrayed as a move towards multi-party politics.
The speech focused on the government’s promises of political reform, which has been a frequent topic of discussion for the embattled leader during the 15-month uprising against his rule.
Annan, the joint United Nations and Arab League envoy for Syria, told an Arab League meeting in Qatar on Saturday that the world needed to see action, not words, from the Syrian leader.
Assad “must make bold and visible steps immediately to radically change his military posture and honor his commitment to withdraw heavy weapons and cease all violence,” Annan said.
“What is important is not the words he uses but the action he takes – now,” Annan said.
Last month, Assad said his government was capable of finding a way out of the crisis gripping his country.
“Syria has been able to overcome the pressures and threats it has faced for years and is able to get out of this crisis thanks to the strength of its people and commitment to unity and independence,” he said.
The parliament has convened for the first time since a controversial May 7 election boycotted by the opposition and dismissed by the West as a farce.
Despite changes to the constitution ending the Baath’s five-decade domination of power, more than 160 of the 250 members of parliament are Baathists, and the legislature voted 225-8 to elect ruling party member Jihad Lahham as its speaker.
Source: Alarabiya with agencies