Latest update: February 8th, 2012
In a rare public address, embattled Syrian leader Bashar Assad insisted he would not step down, and blamed a “foreign conspiracy” for the unrest that has resulted in the deaths of over 5,000 people since protests began last March.
In his nearly two-hour speech at Damascus University, the increasingly-islolated Assad also rejected claims that security forces have been given orders to fire on demonstrators, and castigated the Arab League for failing “to protect Arab interests.” He said that a new constitution was being drafted, and promised that it would be put to a popular referendum when it is completed.
Despite the failure of the Arab League observer mission and an upcoming UN Security Council session on the matter, Assad sounded a positive note, saying: “These past 10 months, despite all their hardships, were very beneficial … I am confident about the future.”
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