Syrians have reportedly gone back to the streets in protest despite President Bashar al-Assad’s pledge that a national dialogue will begin soon. Speaking at the University of Damascus, Assad grouped those demanding change in Syria into “saboteurs” on one hand, and then people with legitimate demands.
A parliamentary election is due this August, and Assad said a reform package should be completed by September. “The dialogue will start in a month or two. It depends on the people who will be meeting. This dialogue is important for the future of Syria. We have to give it a chance if we want to solve our problems,” he said in only his third address since the unrest began three months ago.
Opposition activists say they have set up a “National Council” in the fight to eject Assad. Immediately after Assad’s announcement, protesters took to the streets in Damascus, with many of them saying the speech did not meet their demands for political change. A group of around 300 activists in the suburb of Irbin chanted “No to dialogue with murderers,” according to a witness who spoke with the news agency Reuters by telephone. There were also reports of demonstrations in the coastal city of Latakia. Such information is difficult to verify independently as foreign journalists are banned from Syria.
Rights groups say some 340 members of Syria’s security forces have been killed in recent violence, and four times as many civilians.
Syrians protest despite Assad promises on reform