Defiant Assad summons Syrians for "war to defend nation"

BEIRUT Sun Jan 6, 2013 7:15am EST

1 of 2. Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks at the Opera House in Damascus in this still image taken from video January 6, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Syrian TV via Reuters TV

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - A defiant President Bashar al-Assad called on Sunday for national mobilization in a "war to defend the nation", describing rebels fighting him as terrorists and agents of foreign powers with whom it was impossible to negotiate.

Appearing in an opera house in central Damascus packed with cheering supporters, the Syrian leader delivered his first speech to an audience since June last year, and his first public comments since a television interview in November.

He unveiled what he described as a peace initiative to end the 21-month-old uprising. But the proposal, including a reconciliation conference that would exclude "those who have betrayed Syria", was certain to be rejected by enemies who have already said they will not negotiate unless he leaves power.

He spoke confidently for about an hour before a crowd of cheering loyalists, who occasionally interrupted him to shout and applaud, at one point raising their fists and chanting: "With blood and soul we sacrifice for you, O Bashar!"

At the end of the speech, supporters rushed to the stage, mobbing him and shouting: "God, Syria and Bashar is enough!" as a smiling Assad waved and was escorted from the hall.

"We are now in a state of war in every sense of the word," Assad said in the speech. "This war targets Syria using a handful of Syrians and many foreigners. Thus, this is a war to defend the nation."

"We meet today and suffering is overwhelming Syrian land. There is no place for joy while security and stability are absent on the streets of our country," Assad said. "The nation is for all and we all must protect it."

The United Nations says 60,000 people have been killed in the civil war in Syria, which has brought fighting to the edge of the capital.

(Reporting by Erika Solomon; writing by Peter Graff; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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Comments (9)
joe10082 wrote:
Assad killed all the Syrian he wants to fight for him. Dig all 60,ooo of them up and see what they can contribute to your campaign.

Jan 06, 2013 7:05am EST  --  Report as abuse
joe10082 wrote:
Assad killed all the Syrian he wants to fight for him. Dig all 60,ooo of them up and see what they can contribute to your campaign.

Jan 06, 2013 7:05am EST  --  Report as abuse
WillHolder wrote:
Assad is closer to right than wrong. What started in-country, has grown to include foreign fighters and these insurgents are extremely brutal, terroristic and probably responsible for much of the success of the uprising. The insurgents are receiving ongoing support from various quarters and it would be difficult to identify a responsible party to negotiate with. After what happened in Egypt and Libya, Assad will surely fight to the most bitter end. I don’t suspect that much good will come from the Arab spring now in it’s third year. It seems likely that Islam and the middle east will pose an ever greater threat in the decades to come.

Jan 06, 2013 7:32am EST  --  Report as abuse
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