SYRIA’S PRESIDENT Bashar al-Assad has said his government faces a foreign plot to destroy Syria, and blamed “monsters” for the Houla massacre, in a rare televised speech delivered in parliament.
Assad’s accusations came as Arab leaders called on the United Nations to act to stop bloodshed in Syria and France raised the prospect of military action against Damascus under a UN mandate.
“The masks have fallen and the international role in the Syrian events is now obvious,” Assad said in his first address to the assembly since a May 7 parliamentary election, adding the polls were the perfect response “to the criminal killers and those who finance them”.
The embattled leader, who was greeted with warm applause from lawmakers, said actrocities like the May 25-26 massacre of at least 108 people near the town of Houla, in central Syria, were committed by “monsters”.
“What happened in Houla and elsewhere [in Syria] are brutal massacres which even monsters would not have carried out,” he said.
Assad, dressed in a smart suit and tie, also paid tribute to civilian and military “martyrs” of the violence in Syria, saying their blood was not shed in vain.
‘A project to destroy the country’
“We are not facing a political problem but a project to destroy the country,” Assad said, adding there will be “no dialogue” with opposition groups which “seek foreign intervention.”
“Syria is open to all Syrians regardless of their views, but terrorism can not be part of the political process and we must fight against terrorism to heal the nation,” Assad said, dismissing the impact in Syria of uprisings sweeping the Arab world.
More violence in Syria yesterday killed 89 people, including 57 soldiers, the largest number of casualties the military has suffered in a single day since an uprising began in March 2011, a watchdog said.
The casualties also included 29 civilians and three army defectors killed in various parts of the country in shelling by regime forces or in clashes or gunfire, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
As Arab leaders called for UN action in Syria, France, which spearheaded an air assault against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces last year, said it has not excluded military intervention in the country.
At a ministerial meeting in the Qatari capital Doha, international peace envoy Kofi Annan warned: “The spectre of an all-out war with a worrying sectarian dimension grows by the day.”
“The situation is complex and it takes everyone involved in the conflict to act responsibly if the violence is to stop. But the first responsibility lies in the Syrian government and President Assad,” he said.