President Bashar al-Assad, appearing at the Opera House in Damascus, gave a rare speech in which he denounced the opposition as "enemies of God and puppets of the West."
Addressing a crowd of supporters Assad declared: "We are now in a state of war in every sense of the word. This war targets Syria using a handful of Syrians and many foreigners. Thus, this is a war to defend the nation." (BBC)His defiant speech was received with tumultuous applause, as he called on Syrians to defend their country against "armed, murderous criminals."
The Telegraph reported Assad said: "The one thing that is sure that those who we face today are those who carry the al-Qaeda ideology. There are those who seek to partition Syria and weaken it. But Syria is stronger and will remain sovereign. This is what upsets the West.
Regional and international countries must stop funding the armed men to allow those displaced to return to their homes. Right after that our military operations will cease."
Rapt supporters responded to the speech by chanting "With our soul with our blood we sacrifice ourselves for you O Bashar."
Assad affirmed his own regime was willing to carry out reforms once foreign countries stop funding, arming and harbouring militants.
REFRL reported Assad's speech was dismissed by foreign governments favouring regime change. Syrian National Coalition (SNC) member Khalid Hodja claimed Assad had said nothing new, adding: "He was describing the uprising in Syria as if [it is] led by foreign countries. In this speech also he was denying the reality of the Syrian revolution."