Syria’s president has defied wide expectations by maintaining the country’s five-decade-old emergency law despite weeks of unrest.
In his first public comments since the start of the protests, Bashar al-Assad told parliament that he supported reform but offered no alternative to change Syria’s rigid political system. He also accused external forces of fomenting sectarian strife.
“Syria today is being subjected to a big conspiracy,” he told parliamentarians, who frequently interrupted his speech with applause and shouts of support. He added: “The people behind this conspiracy are mixing three elements, namely sedition, reform and the daily needs of the people.”
The president’s speech comes a day after he sacked the government – a move seen as purely cosmetic since power is concentrated in the hands of the Assad family and its powerful security apparatus.