Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a public address calling his countrymen to unite and defend the country against a "bunch of criminals" and "enemies of God" armed by Western "puppets."
In his speech at the Opera House in downtown Damascus, Assad also offered a political solution to the civil war: a national dialogue with the opposition "who do not take orders from foreign countries" followed by the drafting of a new constitution, a referendum, a parliamentary election and creation of a new government.
Assad, however, said he will not negotiate with those who have extremist ideology and with 'puppets' brought by the West.
Assad also demanded that other countries trying to divide Syria and make Syrians kill each other stop arming and funding the rebels so military operations will stop. He accused foreign countries of conspiring to fund Al Qaeda groups to destroy Syria.
His speech drew applause from the audience, who also chanted they will sacrifice their lives for him.
Meanwhile, an official of the umbrella opposition group National Coalition dismissed Assad's speech as "a waste of time" and not constructive. Louay Safi, a member of the group, said Assad did not offer to resign, which rebels and opposition are demanding as a precondition to a dialogue.
The Syrian civil war is already 21 months old with the death count reaching 60,000.
U.N. Puts Death Count in Syria War at Over 60,000
The United Nations estimated the death toll from the civil war in Syria at more than 60,000, far higher than the count of Syrian activists and opposition.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay said 59,648 people killed between March 15, 2011, and Nov. 30, 2012 based on a five-month research that cross-referenced seven sources.
With more deaths reported after the period, Pillay said the death count will exceed 60,000. The opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria claimed around 207 people were killed in and around the capital Damascus.
Most of the dead victims were male, but UN researchers could not identify how many are combatants and non-combatants. Air attacks, shelling, tank fire, bomb attacks, street-to-street fighting and sectarian fighting caused the deaths mostly in Homs, the Damascus suburbs, Idlib, Aleppo, Daraa and Hama.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which has been counting the fatalities since the civil war broke out in March 2011, put the death toll at more than 45,000.
Pillay warned that the death toll will rise if the fighting and inaction of the international community continue. He said the monthly death count of 1,000 has increased to 5,000 since July.
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