Syria’s Assad Gives First Speech in Months

Posted January 6th, 2013 at 6:30 am (UTC-5)
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Syria's president has called for national mobilization to fight against rebels he says are “al-Qaida terrorists.”

Bashar al-Assad said Sunday in his first speech in months that there is “no joy while security and stability are absent” on Syrian streets.

Mr. Assad, who spoke at the opera house in central Damascus, said Syrian forces are fighting groups of “murderous criminals” funded from outside the country. He proposed a national reconciliation conference and new constitution, but said his government had not yet found any partner for negotiations.

He denied that there is an uprising again his family's decades-long rule.

The president's speech was frequently interrupted by chants of “with our soul, with our blood, we sacrifice ourselves for you.”

Rights groups estimate that 60,000 people have been killed in Syria since President Assad began violently cracking down on what started as peaceful pro-democracy protests in March 2011. The protests evolved into an armed rebellion aimed at ending the Assad family's four-decade authoritarian rule.