Syrian President Bashar al-Assad blamed the unabated violence in his country on "external conspiracies," criticized the Arab League as toothless and said that the international call for reform wasn't taking into account what the country was really facing: terrorism.
The Syrian National Council (SNC), the largest opposition umbrella group, branded Assad's rare speech an "incitement to violence" that pushes the country closer to a civil war.
In the speech just hours before the UN Security Council was to discuss
, Assad denied security forces had orders to fire on civilian protesters, even as activists reported regime gunmen killed 13 more civilians. Syria
Thousands have been reported killed by security forces throughout the uprising. Death estimates range from more than 5,000 to more than 6,000. The Syrian government has consistently blamed the violence on "terrorists" and al-Assad denied that he commanded forces to open fire on protesters.
Assad said the unrest, which the United Nations estimated last month has cost more than 5,000 lives since March, would only come to an end "when the flow of funds and weapons coming from abroad stops."
While he did not explicitly point the finger at a particular country, al-Assad blamed the unrest on both Western and Arab elements as world pressure mounted on his embattled government for its 10-month-long crackdown against protesters.
The address repeated what has become a familiar refrain as Mr. Assad, as he faces his greatest challenge in more than 11 years of authoritarian rule. He pledged to crush what he has cast as terrorism and sabotage, while offering somewhat vague promises of reform. The tenor of his remarks, and his seeming show of confidence, underscored the irreconcilable nature of
’s crisis, which pits a protest movement demanding that Mr. Assad leave office against a government that rarely acknowledges their grievances. Syria
Meanwhile, bombing attacks in
, the capital, have killed scores of people over the past month. The government has said that foreign-backed terrorists were responsible; the opposition claims the government carried out the bombings itself in a cynical effort to sully the protesters’ image. Damascus