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Assad Says Syria Faces War 'Waged From Outside'

  • RFE/RL

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (file photo)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (file photo)

Speaking to parliament on June 3, President Bashar al-Assad said Syria was "facing a real war waged from the outside" and vowed there will be no compromise in the fight with “terrorism.”

"I just want to say that when we describe this as a matter of terrorism, we are no longer talking about the domestic political framework," Assad said.

"We are now facing a real war from outside, and dealing with a war differs from how we would deal with internal sides in Syria. This point must be made clear."

He said Syria was passing through its most critical stage since the end of colonialism.

Assad’s message was similar to previous speeches, in which he blamed terrorists for the country's uprising.

It's his first address since the massacre in Syria's central region of Houla that killed more than 100 people, nearly half of them children. UN observers in the country say there are strong suspicions that a pro-government militia, known as Shabiha, was responsible for the killings.

Assad denied a government role in the Houla massacre, calling it an "ugly crime."

"In reality, even monsters would not carry out what we have seen, especially what we saw in the Houla massacre. I think the Arabic language or the human language cannot describe what we saw and we as Syrians have lived during this period and will continue to feel embarrassment every time we remember it as long as we are alive," Assad said.

"We wish that it does not remain in the memory of our children and grandchildren, we want to keep the lessons [we learn] from this crisis but we don't want these images and emotions to stay in our society."

The president also said unemployed Syrians were being paid to take part in antigovernment rallies.

No Talks With Opposition In Exile

Assad emphasized that the government-sponsored political dialogue was ongoing, but said that the government would not hold talks with members of the exiled opposition.

"They said at the beginning that the problem was the absence of political parties [other than the ruling Baath Party], and we issued the law of [forming] parties," Assad said.

"They said at the beginning that Article 8 [of the constitution, which gave the Baath Party official political monopoly] was a problem, we changed Article 8 and the whole constitution went, and other excuses and reasons that were all changed, but the reality has remained unchanged."

Parliamentary elections were held on May 7, following the approval of a new constitution in a referendum that allowed a multiparty system in the country for the first time in decades.

Opposition groups boycotted the elections.

Annan: Threat Of 'All-Out War' Increasing

Assad's address follows a meeting of the Arab League on June 2 where peace envoy Kofi Annan warned that the "specter of all-out war" was increasing in Syria and that Assad needed to end the conflict peacefully.

"The situation is complex and it takes everyone involved in the conflict to act responsibly if the violence is to stop," Annan said. "But the first responsibility lies in the Syrian government and President Assad."

Anna also warned that achieving a true cease-fire remained as elusive as ever even though UN monitors are now on the ground in Syria.

"Today we have 291 UN military observers and over 90 UN civilians in the mission in Syria able to move freely throughout the country and provide objective reports that can inform the Security Council and all of you," he said.

"But we do not have what this was set up to achieve, an end to the appalling violence and abuses and the launch of the political process for a transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people."

Meanwhile, opposition activists said that five people were killed across Syria on June 3.

The opposition Local Coordination Committees said the deaths occurred in the provinces of Aleppo, Homs and Hama.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that there were also two explosions in Damascus and Aleppo.

The organization said that there were several injuries when an explosive device was detonated in Aleppo, while a blast was also heard in the Tadamun area of Damascus during Assad's speech.

Monitors say more than 13,400 people have been killed across Syria since an antiregime uprising erupted in March 2011, including nearly 2,300 since the cease-fire technically went into effect on April 12.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters

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