Syrian President Bashar al Assad on Tuesday said he will not leave power until all his people want him to do so, describing the violence in his country a "foreign conspiracy". In a televised address, lasted for almost two hours, he blamed foreign elements "trying to destabilize Syria" for the unrest.
Assad said: "The foreign conspiracy is no longer a secret to any one because what was planned behind closed doors is now clear before the people,”
"They turned to assassinations... with regional and international media coverage," he said in the Damascus University. "After all their attempts failed, the role of foreigners emerged."
“What is needed from this unprecedented media attack is for us to become fearful and there are 60 channels dedicated to working against Syria ... working inside and outside of Syria,” he said.
He slammed some Arab countries for their stance. "There are Arab countries who attempted to play an ethical, objective role and there were others who stood neutral and others who are implementing instructions from foreigners," Assad added.
"The same countries who claim they care for the Arab people used to advise us to reform but they do not have knowledge of democracy. They thought we would not go along with reform but when we did, that was disturbing for them. So they moved to the Arab League," the Syrian president stated.
The Syrian leader claimed credit for inviting the Arab monitors. "I was the one who actually suggested to have the Arab League observers to come over and see what was happening in Syria," he said.
The Syrian president also denied that the security forces were ordered to open fire on demonstrators. "There is no cover for anyone. There are no orders for anyone to open fire on any citizen," he said.
He stressed that the regime would tackle terrorism with an "iron fist." The priority today is to restore security and this will be achieved by striking terrorists with an iron fist and there will be no comprise with terrorists or those who terrorize citizens or those who conspire against his country,” Assad said.
"There can be no let-up for terrorism -- it must be hit with an iron fist," he said. "The battle with terrorism is a battle for everyone, a national battle, not only the government's battle."
Assad also announced that a national referendum on the country’s new constitution will be held at the beginning of March 2012. According to him, the referendum will take place after the constitutional committee mapped out the draft constitution, a process that he said was expected to be finalized by the middle of this month.
Assad also said that his government was prepared to launch national dialogue with opposition parties. "We do not have any restraints in the issue of dialogue and when we find that all parties are ready for it, we would be ready to begin,” he said. According to Assad, Syria needed a national opposition but one that was free of foreign interference. "We need a national opposition ... not one that resides in embassies and takes orders from outside,” Assad said.