Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nothing new in disappointing speech by Syrian president Assad

The Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has told parliament that Syria will defeat those behind a 'plot' against his country. 'Syria is a target of a big plot from outside - its timing, its format has been speeded up,' he said.

People were 'duped' to go into the streets, he said, in his first speech since anti-government demonstrations erupted two weeks ago.

It is believed that some 130 people have been
killed during violent protests that began in the southern city of Deraa. 'Deraa is in the heart of every Syrian,' Mr Assad said. It is on the front line of Syria's enemy, Israel. The people of Deraa will 'eliminate whoever is behind the violence.'.
His speech was interrupted several times by MPs pledging their support.

Huge crowds took to the streets to show support for Mr Assad, the supporters having been been mobilised by the government. In cases like this members of the unions which are all controlled by the Baath Party, governement employees and the Baath Party members themselves are ordered to attend the rallies, according to Reuters.

It was expected that Assad would to use the address to discuss a string of reforms announced last week, amid a wave of dissent and protests demanding more freedoms. One of the most important  was the lifting of the state of emergency which has been in place for the past five decades. But Assad not ony failed to do so, he also disappointed the people who had been hoping for some changes to the better, by lamely blaming the insurgancey on outside plotters. .
Assad apologized that it took him several days before he held his long awaited address. 'I know that the Syrian people have been awaiting this speech since last week, but I was waiting to get the full picture... to avoid giving an emotional address that would put the people at ease but have no real effect, at a time when our enemies are targeting Syria,' he said.
A day before Assad's speech the country's cabinet resigned. Naji al-Otari, the resigning premier, has been chosen by Assad as caretaker prime minister. Otari has been prime minister since 2003.The government has little power in Syria, where power is concentrated in the hands of Assad, his family and the security apparatus. This ruling elite is reported to be studying the liberalisation of laws on media and political parties as well as anti-corruption measures. An easing of restrictions on civil liberties and political freedom is still  expected. But analysts say there are divergent views within the Syrian leadership on handing the crisis - one group favours a crackdown on the dissent while the other prefers dialogue.

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