Syria's president has used a televised speech to tell the nation just who was responsible for the bloodshed in the country. Bashar al-Assad said 'terrorists' and 'outside forces' were to blame.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday blamed "terrorists" and "outside forces" for the ongoing bloodshed in the country.
"The masks have fallen and the international role in the Syrian events is now obvious," Assad said told the country's parliament in a speech that was broadcast live on national television.
He also said that last month's parliamentary elections were the correct response "to the criminal killers and those who finance them." Pointing to those polls, he rejected the idea that the real problem in the country had to do with politics.
"We are not facing a political problem because if we were, this [opposition] party would put forth a political program. What we are facing is [an attempt] to sow sectarian strife and the tool of this is terrorism," Assad said. He also pledged to continue the fight against "armed terrorists."
The president said his government remained open to dialogue with those who sought political reforms, but only under certain conditions.
"Doors are open and we are ready to start a dialogue, but not with those connected to foreign powers … There is [a] part of [the] opposition that still waits for signals from the outside," he said.
New diplomatic urgency
Diplomatic efforts to end the fighting in Syria have been stepped up since the massacre at Houla nine days ago, which killed more than 100 people, including many civilians, and wounded hundreds of others. An investigation conducted by United Nations monitors in the country found the pro-regime forces were likely responsible for at least some of the killings.
"What happened in Houla and elsewhere are brutal massacres which even monsters would not have carried out," Assad said.
On Saturday, the UN-Arab league peace envoy, Kofi Annan, singled out President Assad as the key to resolving the conflict. At an Arab League meeting in Doha, Annan warned that Syria may be slipping into an all-out war.
A cease-fire, which is part of Annan's six-point plan to bring peace to the country, came into force on April 12. However, neither that nor the deployment of nearly 300 UN monitors has stopped the fighting.
The UN estimates that more than 9,000 people have been killed since early last year when the Assad regime launched a crackdown on protesters calling for political reforms.
pfd/ncy (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)