Assad “peace plan” greeted with scorn by foes

by
January 7, 2013

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad waves to his supporters after speaking at the Opera House in Damascus
BEIRUT | Syrian President Bashar al-Assad rejected peace talks with his enemies on Sunday in a defiant speech that his opponents described as a renewed declaration of war.

Although the speech was billed as the unveiling of a new peace plan, Assad offered no concessions and even appeared to harden many of his positions. He rallied Syrians for “a war to defend the nation” and disparaged the prospect of negotiations.

“We do not reject political dialogue … but with whom should we hold a dialogue? With extremists who don’t believe in any language but killing and terrorism?” Assad asked supporters who packed Damascus Opera House for his first speech since June.

“Should we speak to gangs recruited abroad that follow the orders of foreigners? Should we have official dialogue with a puppet made by the West, which has scripted its lines?”

It was his first public speech to an audience in six months. Since the last, rebels have reached the capital’s outskirts.

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