Defiant Assad Summons Syrians for War to Defend Nation
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!”