Syria's Assad vows "iron fist", mocks Arab League

Tue Jan 10, 2012 1:09pm EST
 
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By Dominic Evans

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad vowed on Tuesday to strike "terrorists" with an iron fist and derided Arab League efforts to halt violence in a 10-month-old revolt against his rule.

The president's 100-minute speech, his first public address since June, contained some promises of reform, but no sweeping concessions that might placate an opposition now determined to end more than four decades of domination by the Assad family.

Assad, 46, offered a referendum on a new constitution in March before a multi-party parliamentary election that has been much postponed. Under the present constitution, Assad's Baath party is designated as "the leader of the state and society".

But the Syrian leader gave no sign that he was willing to relinquish the power he inherited on his father's death in 2000.

"I am not someone who abandons responsibility," he declared.

In the latest bloodshed, Syrian forces shot dead 10 people, most of them anti-Assad protesters, in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Gunfire from a checkpoint also killed a man in Homs, it added.

Authorities have barred most independent media from Syria, making it hard to verify accounts by activists or officials.

Assad made scathing remarks about the Arab League, which has sent monitors to check Syria's compliance with an Arab peace plan after suspending it from the 22-member body in November.   Continued...