Syrian President Denounces Foreign 'Conspiracy' on Protests
3/30/11VOA
AP:Syrian citizens watch Syrian President Bashar Assad on TV as he addresses Parliament, in Damascus, Syria. Assad has blamed a wave of protests on "conspirators" who are trying to destroy the country, March 30, 2011 -

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in a speech to the nation blamed foreigners and social media on Wednesday for creating a "conspiracy" to bring down his regime.

The address comes amid deadly opposition protests representing the most serious threat to Assad's 11-year-rule and the long-standing authority of his family. The southern city of Daraa has been the focal point of the protests.

Speaking from the parliament chambers, Assad said his government has created some reforms to meet protesters' demands including raising salaries and changing his Cabinet.

Assad accepted his Cabinet's resignation on Tuesday. The government of Prime Minister Mohammed Naji al-Otari stepped down and a new Cabinet is likely to be unveiled soon but he will continue to serve in the interim.

Assad said his government sometimes fails in "marketing" its message to the people.

Protesters have been demanding that Assad lift Syria's 50-year-old emergency law which prohibits demonstrations. But the law received a brief mention in the speech and Assad gave no indication of a change.

The parliament chambers were filled where Assad spoke. Some in the audience interrupted the speech to praise Assad. Syrian state television showed hundreds of people in a square cheering Mr. Assad during the speech.

Syrian security officials have cracked down on recent anti-government demonstrations, firing tear gas and live ammunition to disperse protesters.  The group Human Rights Watch says at least 61 people have been killed since the unrest began.

Assad said security forces were instructed not to harm demonstrators during recent protests.

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