Syria's President Bashar Assad said on Sunday that his country was facing a war waged from outside the country and that terrorism was escalating despite political steps including last month's parliamentary election.
"A battle was forced on us, and the result was this bloodshed that we are seeing," Assad said. His message was similar to previous speeches, in which he blamed terrorists for uprising across Syria. The revolt began in March 2011.
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"We are not facing a political problem because if we were this party would put forth a political program. What we are facing is (an attempt) to sow sectarian strife and the tool of this is terrorism," Assad said in a speech to parliament, broadcast on Syrian television.
Damascus not to blame. Assad (Photo: Reuters)
"The issue is terrorism. We are facing a real war waged from the outside," Assad said."We have to fight terrorism for the country to heal... We will not be lenient. We will be forgiving only for those who renounce terrorism."
"We will continue firmly confronting terrorism, leaving the door open for those who want to return," Assad told parliament. "I urge all those who are still hesitant to do so, to take this step. The state will not take revenge."
Protest in Dara, Syria, following the Houla massacre (Photo: Reuters)
Authorities were prepared to hold dialogue with political opponents who did not have outside backing "or have not partcipated in terrorism," he added.
Speaking Sunday, as the country appeared to be spiraling toward civil war, the president said country was passing through its most critical stage since the end of colonialism.
UN investigators have said there are strong suspicions that pro-regime gunmen are responsible for at least some of the killings.
AP contributed to this report