Syrian President Says No Orders to Shoot Civilians

Posted January 10th, 2012 at 5:40 am (UTC-5)
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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says no orders were given for government security forces to fire on civilians and he blamed a “foreign conspiracy” for the 10 month old anti-government uprising in his country.

In a speech Tuesday in the capital, Damascus, Mr. Assad said restoring security in Syria is a priority, and can be achieved by responding to “terrorists” with an “iron fist.”

The Syrian government has accused “armed terrorists” of driving the revolt against Mr. Assad's 11-year autocratic rule.

The embattled president said Tuesday he will only leave his position at the will of the people.

Mr. Assad promised to let Syrians vote on a new constitution in a March referendum with parliamentary elections to follow.

He also said he will not rule out any Arab solution to the crisis in Syria, as long as it respects the country's sovereignty.

Mr. Assad accused international media of working against Syria and also criticized the Arab League, which suspended Syria's membership in November.

The speech comes as a team of Arab League monitors continues its mission to observe Syria's compliance with a plan to end violence against anti-government protesters.

The United Nations says violence related to Mr. Assad's crackdown on the rebellion has killed at least 5,000 people. The Syrian government accuses armed terrorists of driving the 10-month revolt and killing 2,000 security personnel.

In June, Mr. Assad gave a 70-minute televised address in which he promised reforms and blamed “saboteurs” for trying to exploit calls for change in Syria.

Arab League foreign ministers decided Sunday to increase the number of monitors in Syria, despite criticism from opposition activists and rights groups who say the mission has failed to bring any halt to the violence.