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Still as defiant as ever, Assad pledges to defeat Syrian rebels in address

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 7th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad had not given a public appearance or speech in over six months. When it was learned that he would be addressing the nation in a televised assembly, there was scattered hope that he would step down and strike a truce with the forces that have brought his nation to its knees. No chance: Assad was as defiant and belligerent as ever, and pledged to continue fighting until rebel forces seceded.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - Bashar urged Syrians to mobilize in a "war to defend the nation," a defiant call to arms in an hour-long speech to cheering loyalists in the opera house in the capital Damascus. Railing against "enemies of God and puppets of the West," the speech was his first since June of last year.

Bashar declared he would not talk to those he called extremists "who only understand the language of terrorism" or to "puppets" of the West. "We negotiate with the master not with the slave," he said.

The president's speech was interrupted by supporters who shouted and applauded. "With blood and soul we sacrifice for you, O Bashar," the crowd chanted.

"We are now in a state of war in every sense of the word," Bashar said. "This war targets Syria using a handful of Syrians and many foreigners. Thus, this is a war to defend the nation."

Bashar continues to hold the view that the Syrian crisis was not an uprising against his family's decades-long rule but a foreign-backed agenda.

"Is this a revolution and are these revolutionaries? By God I say they are a bunch of criminals," he said.

Following the speech, fierce loyalists rushed to the stage, mobbing Bashar and shouted "God, Syria and Bashar is enough!" The president smiled, waved and blew kisses as he left.

The United Nations has estimated that 60,000 people have died in the 21-month uprising.

Bashar's speech drew international condemnation. "He has the most phenomenal amount of blood on his hands," British Prime Minister David Cameron said.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it would build a fortified fence along the border with Syria, warning that radical Islamist forces have taken over the area. Netanyahu also expressed fears that extremists could gain control of Syria's chemical weapons if Assad falls.

NATO is preparing to send U.S and European Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries to the Turkish-Syrian border. U.S troops and equipment began arriving in Turkey on Friday for the deployment at Syria's border with Turkey. Germany and the Netherlands are also sending Patriot batteries, which will take weeks to deploy fully.

Turkey and NATO both say the missiles are a safeguard to protect southern Turkey from possible Syrian missile strikes.

Syria, along with allies Russia and Iran warn that the deployments could spark military action by the Western alliance.

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