Syrian President Calls Uprising A 'Foreign Conspiracy'
Assad vowed to respond to threats against him with an "iron hand" and refused to step down as president, insisting he still has his people's support despite a 10-month uprising, the Associated Press reported. Assad spoke of the violence in Syria as a form of terrorism.
"Our priority now is to regain security in which we basked for decades, and this can only be achieved by hitting the terrorists with an iron hand," Assad said. "We will not be lenient with those who work with outsiders against the country."
The speech lasted nearly two hours and was broadcast on Syrian television. Assad spoke at the University of Damascus.
According to the AP, Assad said the Arab League failed to protect Arab interests. The Arab League has sent a team of monitors to decide whether the regime is abiding by a peace plan Assad agreed to in December. The plan called for an end to military crackdowns on protesters.
The United Nations estimated Syria's uprising to remove Assad from power has resulted in 5,000 deaths since March, the AP reported. Assad denied that his regime ordered security forces to shoot anyone.
"This is not a revolution," Assad said. "Is it possible that he is a revolutionary and a traitor at the same time? This is impossible. If there were true revolutionaries, we would be walking together."
Omar Idlibi, a spokesman for the opposition group Local Coordination Committees, told The New York Times that Assad's speech was another example of the government's denial of the country's discontent.
"They're denying reality," Idlibi said in a phone interview. "He doesn't want to recognize the changes that occurred until today."
Reach executive producer Agnus Dei Farrant here.
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