lunes, 20 de junio de 2011

Syria: President Bashar al-Assad keeps to hard line


President Bashar al-Assad: "The strength of the state stems from the strength of the people... let the people and the state come together" 
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has blamed anti-government protests on a small group of "saboteurs".
In his third address to the nation since protests began in March, he said Syria should deal with people's demands for reform but that a "small faction" was exploiting popular grievances.
He said a national dialogue would shape Syria's future and urged people who had fled to Turkey to return.
After the speech there were reports of further protests in several cities.
Local co-ordinators for the protesters said that reforms were no longer their demand. The only solution was a change of regime, their spokesman Ali Othman told the BBC.
Other opposition activists said that Mr Assad's speech was addressed to his loyalists - not to his opponents.
But Mr Assad's supporters said the speech was encouraging and responsive to people's demands.
Rights groups say at least 1,300 civilians have been killed in anti-government demonstrations since March, and more than 300 soldiers and police.
The BBC's Jim Muir, reporting from neighbouring Lebanon, says there were no dramatic announcements in Mr Assad's address, and it is unlikely to change the course of events in Syria.
The protesters have long given up on dialogue, he adds, and they believe that the authorities are incapable of serious reform from within and should be overthrown and then held to account.
The speech comes as European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels prepare a resolution expanding sanctions against Syria.
Meanwhile, people who fled a military assault in the north-west of Syria said the army had cut off the border town of Bdama, which had been providing supplies to displaced families.
The main issue in this speech different to the other ones is that he did acknowledge the lawful rights of protesters.
He did acknowledge that there had been martyrs from the civilians as well as the army. And he highlighted that the priority was political not economic reform.
But some of the opposition here that I've managed contact to get their reaction to the speech said it was addressed to those loyal to President Assad and not his opponents.
Protesters said there was no announcement on ending the violence, killings and arrests, nor was there any mention of holding the security services accountable for the killings.
We now might expect more protesters taking to the streets.
Speaking in a televised address to supporters at Damascus University, Mr Assad expressed regret about the protest deaths, saying that they were a great loss to the nation and him personally.
But he said the "saboteurs", who had smeared the image of Syria across the world during the protests, had to be isolated.
"What is happening today has nothing to do with reform, it has to do with vandalism," he said.
"There can be no development without stability, and no reform through vandalism.
"The demands of the street do not justify inflicting damage on the country."
But the Syrian president also said a national dialogue authority was being set up to create a reform plan, and another committee would be created to examine the constitution.
"We must give this dialogue a chance because the future of Syria depends on it," he said, adding that he expected a reform package to be ready by September.
Syrian citizens should be involved in combating corruption at all levels, he added.

Syria's protests mapped

He said he had instructed the justice minister to consider expanding a recent amnesty.
Mr Assad also called on thousands of people who had fled into Turkey fearing violence to return to their homes "as soon as possible".
He referred in particular to the residents of Jisr al-Shughour, where armed forces recently took control after violence in which more than 100 security personnel were killed.
"The state will protect them. It is there to protect them," he said.
President Assad's latest speech came a day after opposition activists announced the creation of a body to lead the struggle against the regime.
The council urged people to "co-operate in all cities and provinces of Syria to achieve the legitimate goal of overthrowing the regime and bring it to justice", spokesman Jamil Saib told reporters near the Turkish border, according to the AFP news agency.
Families stranded Also on Sunday, activists said the army had surrounded Bdama - only 2km (1.2 miles) from Turkey - with checkpoints and was stopping people attempting to head for the Turkish border.
Nonetheless, hundreds have managed to escape.

Assad's recent appearances

  • 30 March: In address to parliament, described unrest as conspiracy against Syria by its foreign enemies
  • 16 April: In TV address, announces end to emergency law, expresses sadness over deaths and calls for national dialogue 
More than 10,000 Syrian refugees have crossed the Turkish border, and Turkish officials say another 10,000 are sheltering on the Syrian side.
The local Turkish governor's office said some Syrians were collecting food at the border to take to the stranded families.
It said there was no question of Turkish soldiers crossing into Syria.
Raka al-Abduh, 23, told AFP that his family fled Bdama on Saturday, but he went back on Sunday morning to get bread.
He reached the village using mountain routes and found it all but abandoned.
"They closed the only bakery there. We cannot get bread any more," he said. "I saw soldiers shooting the owner of the bakery. They hit him in the chest and the leg."
There were also protests overnight in the cities of Hama, Homs, Latakia, Deir al-Zour, Madaya, and several suburbs of Damascus, activists said.

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