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U.S. Denounces Speech By Syrian Leader

Syrians watched the speech of President Bashar al-Assad on television at a cafe in Damascus on January 10.
The United States has denounced Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's latest speech on the crisis in Syria, and again called on him to step down.

Assad vowed on January 10 to use an "iron hand" to crush what he described as the terrorists and saboteurs who have been leading Syria's uprising against his government.

In the televised speech, Assad also repeated earlier claims that a foreign conspiracy – by nations he did not name – are behind the revolt, not peaceful protesters seeking to reform Syria.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned the speech as an effort by Assad to “deflect the attention” of the Syrian people from the real problems in the country.

"Throughout the course of this speech, Assad manages to blame a foreign conspiracy that is so vast, with regard to the situation in Syria, that it now includes the Arab League, most of the Syrian opposition, the entire international community,” Nuland said.

“He throws responsibility on everybody but back on himself. And with regard to his own responsibility for the violence in Syria, he seems to aggressively deny any responsibility or any hand in the role of his own security forces."

In another development, the United Nations has reported that at least 400 people have been killed in Syria in the past two weeks, coinciding with the deployment of an Arab League observer mission in Syria.

The UN has previously said that more than 5,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the Syrian uprising 10 months ago.

compiled from agency reports