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China Daily Website

Syria's Assad calls for end to'real war'

Updated: 2013-01-07 07:48
( China Daily/Agencies)

"We will look carefully if there is anything new in the speech but we maintain our position that Assad has to step aside and allow for a political transition," a spokesman for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said.

Assad last spoke in public on June 3 when he addressed parliament in Damascus. In November he gave an interview to Russian television in which he dismissed suggestions he would go into exile, saying said he would "live and die" in Syria.

In his speech on Sunday, Assad came out fighting, appealing to all Syrians to join together to defend the nation.

"Everyone must defend it ... the attack on the entire nation ... every citizen who is aware ... and refusing to join solutions is taking the nation backwards," he said.

The president, who was frequently interrupted by chants of "With our soul with our blood we sacrifice ourselves for you O Bashar", stressed throughout his speech that the Syrian people must decide their future alone.

During his latest visit to Damascus, UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi had mentioned a plan, based on a Geneva declaration, that talked of a ceasefire, forming a government and holding parliamentary and presidential polls.

The Geneva plan put forward last June would see a transitional government in place, but it does not refer to Assad going - a key demand of the opposition.

NATO member Turkey, a one-time Damascus ally, has become one of its most vocal opponents over the conflict in its southern neighbor, and has led international calls for Assad to go.

On Saturday the deployment began of US Patriot missiles near its border with Syria.

The US will transport some 400 troops to Turkey in the coming days to operate two Patriot batteries, to be based at Gaziantep, 50 kilometers north of the border.

Germany, The Netherlands and the United States agreed to supply the ground-to-air missile batteries that Turkey requested after deadly cross-border shelling from Syria.

With the conflict spilling across Syria's borders, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Jewish state would erect a new security fence along the armistice line with Syria in the Golan Heights to guard against "infiltrations and terror".


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