Syrian president Bashar al-Assad

President Assad focuses on dialogue in key speech

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad today addressed the nation for the first time since uprising began in mid-March. This follows two speeches at the Parliament and to the Cabinet over the past three months.

In the highly anticipated speech, the president concentrated on domestic political and economic issues.

Offering his condolences to the families of "martyrs" from the unrest which some estimate has caused the deaths of up to 1,400 people, Assad said there could be "no development without stability, no reform in the face of sabotage and chaos."

There are three elements to the current unrest, he said: people with rightful demands; criminals who joined the protests; and religious extremists, who, he added, constitute the most dangerous element.

They destroy in the name of religion and spread violence in the name of freedom,” he said. “First they carried out assassinations, closed schools, erected roadblocks and sabotaged private and government property. Then they embarked on the second phase of their operations in Jisr al-Shughour where they committed hideous massacres.”

The further we are from stability, the further we get from development…There is no development without stability,” the president added.

Some of the chaos, he said, was also being perpetrated by the 64,000 “outlaws” wanted by the courts.

He also announced that delayed parliamentary elections, meant to have been held last month, will take place in August, and promised to widen an amnesty for opponents of the regime.

On a proposed national dialogue, Assad said it should not be polerised between the government and opposition, but should include “all classes of the people”.

The title of the current phase is dialogue,” Assad said, continuing to say that amending the constitution is being studied, and the final say in the specifics will be made as part of the national dialogue process.

Reform is a perfect and absolute conviction [for us], because it is in the interest of the homeland and the people’s desire,” he continued. “The solution is political, but is determined by the nature of the problem. There is no political solution while people are holding guns in their hands and killing.”

In what may be a significant step, the president announced he was taking the responsibility of the security forces for overseeing civil institutions away and giving it an anti-corruption committee overseen by “independent judiciary”.

Syria Today (Syria)