World responds to al-Assad's speech
BEIRUT- Agence France-Presse
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks at the Opera House in Damascus in this still image taken from video January 6, 2013. REUTERS photoThe opposition Syrian National Coalition rejects a reconciliation plan outlined by President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Sunday, spokesman Walid al-Bunni told AFP by phone.
"We said at the founding of the National Coalition that we want a political solution, but ... there are now over 60,000 martyrs. The Syrians did not make all those sacrifices in order to bolster this tyrannical regime," he said.
Al-Bunni said the speech was directed primarily at the "international community, which engaged in a real effort to create a political solution that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people and ends the tyranny of the Assad family regime."
Al-Assad will not accept "any initiative that does not restore stability to his regime and put him at the helm of control," al-Bunni said, adding that the president had "excluded the possibility of any dialogue with the rebels ... He wants negotiating partners of his own choosing and will not accept any initiative that could meet the aspirations of the Syrian people or ultimately lead to his departure and the dismantling of his regime."
Al-Assad's call to dialogue "excluded those who revolt" and is addressed to "those who did not rise up or who will gladly accept the return of stability despite all the sacrifices made by the Syrian people," al-Bunni said.
In a rare speech, President al-Assad denounced the opposition on Sunday as "slaves" of the West and called for national dialogue to draft a new charter and pave the way for legislative polls.
He said the conflict was not one between the government and the opposition but between the "nation and its enemies." "Just because we have not found a partner, it does not mean we are not interested in a political solution, but that we did not find a partner," he told the audience.
Al-Assad speech 'beyond hypocritical': Britain's Hague
Britain denounced the speech on Sunday as "beyond hypocritical."
Foreign Secretary William Hague said al-Assad's first speech to the nation since June was full of "empty promises" and would "fool no-one."
Hague took to Twitter to vent his anger about the speech, writing: "AssadSpeech beyond hypocritical. Deaths, violence and oppression engulfing Syria are his own making, empty promises of reform fool no one."
Prime Minister David Cameron also earlier reiterated his calls for the Syrian leader to stand down. "My message to al-Assad is go," he told BBC TV. "He has the most phenomenal amount of blood on his hands."