Syrian President Says “Saboteurs” Exploiting Legitimate Reform

Posted June 20th, 2011 at 6:05 am (UTC-5)
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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says “saboteurs” are trying to exploit legitimate calls for change, and there can be no reform in his country through vandalism.

Mr. Assad said during a televised speech to the nation Monday there can be no development in Syria without stability. The speech was his third major address since anti-government protests began in mid-March.

Before the speech, British Foreign Secretary William Hague called on Mr. Assad to either reform or step aside. Hague said he hoped Turkey would pressure neighboring Syria and tell Mr. Assad he is “losing legitimacy.”

Turkey is sheltering more than 10,000 Syrian refugees in tent cities near its border with Syria.

In a speech two weeks after the protests began, Mr. Assad said foreigners had created a conspiracy to bring down his government. In mid-April, his address said the government would abolish the country's 50-year-old emergency law and that he was urging his Cabinet to consider measures to create new jobs.

Mr. Assad's speech follows reports of Syrian troops ransacking a border village that had provided help to thousands of people fleeing a military crackdown on anti-government dissent.

Refugees and activists say that soldiers in the village of Bdama set fire to crops and buildings and shut down the village's only bakery. They say troops were setting up checkpoints to prevent people from fleeing to Turkey.

On Sunday, Turkey said it also is distributing much-needed food aid to people camping on the Syrian side of the border. Food is scarce in Bdama, especially since the forced closure of its bakery.

Bdama is a short distance from the Turkish border. An activist with the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Bdama residents had been helping people who were fleeing violence in other Syrian towns as they headed to shelter in Turkey.

The Syrian government has been intensifying its crackdown in the northwestern province of Idlib.

Rights activists say that nationwide, more than 1,400 civilians have been killed and 10,000 have been detained since mid-March in the government's crackdown on protests.