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President al-Assad
President al-Assad

President al-Assad blames protests on ‘vandalism’ & ‘saboteurs’

(DP-News – washingtonpost )

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday blamed the mass protests rocking his country on “saboteurs” and “vandalism,” declaring in a televised speech that “there can be no development without stability.”

President al-Assad spoke for more than an hour at Damascus University, alternating between defiance and a conciliatory tone. It was his third major address since the pro-democracy demonstrations that have been reshaping other Arab countries began to emerge in Syria, triggering violent crackdowns and retaliation from Syria’s regime.

On Monday, speaking to a crowd of cheering supporters at the university, President al-Assad announced the formation of a 100-member National Dialogue Authority that would map out a path to reforms. He said he would serve on the commission.



In a reference to thousands who have fled to or across the border to Turkey, al-Assad urged the “displaced” to return to their homes and said security forces would protect and not attack them.

He said he wanted Syria to stabilize so the military could return to their barracks and promised to prosecute all those involved in bloodshed — without specifically acknowledging that his own military has been implicated in shooting hundreds of unarmed protesters.

“What is happening today has nothing to do with reform, it has to do with vandalism,” he said. “This is a black period in Syria, and we should not continue in a black period.”


While President al-Assad gave no specifics, he promised a number of reforms, including asking the Justice Ministry to consider widening a political prisoner amnesty. He said he was open to drafting a new constitution for the nation, and pledged to reform the political process and organize elections.

Such offers, however, may be too little, too late for Syria’s political opposition, who - as the death toll has mounted- has vowed to continue their protests until “al-Assad and his family relinquish power” as they said.

President Bashar al-Assad spoke to Syria’s parliament about the crisis March 30 and address a newly formed cabinet on April 16. He had not been seen in public since mid-May, however, and for several days last week refused to take phone calls from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

On Monday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague asked Turkey to help convince the Syrian leader to make significant concessions, according to the Associated Press.

"I hope our Turkish colleagues will bring every possible pressure to bear on the Assad regime, with a very clear message that they are losing legitimacy, and that Assad should reform or step aside," Hague said as he arrived in Luxembourg for a meeting of European Union foreign ministers.

The ministers were expected to discuss tougher sanctions on Syria.

Inside the auditorium at Damascus University, however, such criticism seemed far away. At the close of Assad’s speech, the crowd chanted:

“God, Syria, Bashar and that’s it.”

Activists said that at least 1,250 people have been killed since protests began. Nearly 11,000 refugees have fled to Turkey to escape the violence, and an estimated 5,000 displaced people are in the mountains on the Syrian side of the border.

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