A referendum on a new constitution will take place in the country the first week of March, announced President Bashar al-Assad in a speech to the nation delivered from the University of Damascus, which was broadcast this morning by Syrian state television.
In the speech, the President, at the center of the storm for the violent repression of anti-regime demonstrations that have been going on for months in several cities, confirmed that he would not resign and has denounced the existence of an “international conspiracy” with the participation of some Arab countries, in order to destabilize the country through “unprecedented media attack.”
The Syrian president denounced “the manipulation of sectarian divisions, and peaceful demonstrations,” reiterating that he never ordered the army to fire on demonstrators and recalling that the Syrian laws “require that you can open fire only if self defense. ”
Assad also said that the legislative elections planned in February, may be held after the constitutional referendum, “between May and June” and said he was ready for dialogue with opposition “which is not driven by foreign embassies.”
With regard to the mission of observers sent by the Arab League in Syria, with which the government has already begun to work, the President has asked in a polemical tone by what right “other Arab rulers, including the absolute monarchies of the Gulf pretend to give lessons to Syria on democracy: their situation – he said – is similar to that of a doctor who tells the patient to quit smoking, even as he has a lit cigarette in his mouth. ”
The President went even further, accusing the Arab League – which has frozen Syrian membership – of having always failed “when it came to support change” and asking provocatively: “What did you do in many years for the Palestinian issue, for interference against Syria, to prevent the massacres in Sudan or to protect the victims of the attacks in Iraq? ”
With regard to the two bombings that have hit the capital – a fact unprecedented in the recent national history – Assad has made clear he intends to use “iron fist” against terrorism that seeks to infiltrate the country.
The speech by the Syrian head of state arrives in a few hours by the statements of former ally, the prime minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who that the escalation towards “religious and sectarian civil war” in Syria could be a “serious threat” for Turkey.