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Syrian President Assad Blames Uprising on Western Influence

 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continued to attack his enemies and blamed foreign states for the country’s ongoing civil war. In his first public appearance since June, the embattled leader labeled his enemies as puppets “made by the West,” and called upon his remaining supporters to “defend the nation” against the Free Syrian Army. While Assad insisted that Syria was open to diplomacy, he made no mention of an end to the violence that has claimed the lives of over 60,000 since unrest began in 2011.

“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 the crowd at the Damascus Opera House.

“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?”

Foreign officials involved in the Syrian conflict dismissed Assad’s remarks, which were promoted as a peace plan, as a continuation of the rhetoric that brought the nation to war. The leader did outline a plan for the establishment of a new government through a conference with “Syrian individuals and political parties,” but the opposing Syrian National Coalition will not yield to Assad’s regime. According to Reuters, SNC spokesman Walid Bunni said that the coalition would only accept “the departure of Assad and his government.”

Assad took power in 2000 after the death of his father and previously told a Russian TV station that he intended to “live and die in Syria.” Syria’s uprising began in March 2011, as a part of the Arab Spring movement that brought down authoritarian regimes in Egypt and Libya. Almost two years later, Syria’s internal conflict has been by far the bloodiest in the region.

Opposition forces seem equally resolute in their efforts to remove Assad, and now control a large portion of Syria’s northern and eastern areas. Speaking to Reuters, the SNC vice president cast Assad’s speech in a different light, describing it as a declaration of continuing warfare.

“We should see it rather as a declaration that he will continue his war against the Syrian people,” he said “The appropriate response is to continue to resist this unacceptable regime and for the Free Syrian Army to continue its work in liberating Syria until every inch of land is free.”

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