Jan 10 - In a televised speech on Tuesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denies any policy of shooting peaceful protesters. Travis Brecher reports.
In a televised speech aired Tuesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said his government is open to any Arab League proposals to end a 10-month-old uprising in which thousands of people have been killed. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SYRIAN PRESIDENT, BASHAR AL-ASSAD, SAYING: "We do not close the door to solutions and suggestions, and we do not close any door to any Arab initiative, as they respect Syrian sovereignty and the freedom of our decision and care about the unity of our nation." But despite a massive death toll recognized by the U.N., he denied any policy to kill civilians. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SYRIAN PRESIDENT, BASHAR AL-ASSAD, SAYING: "There is no order at any level within the levels of our country to shoot at any civilian." But here in Turkey's largest city of Istanbul, one Syrian activist doesn't buy it. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SYRIAN ACTIVIST, HAITHAM AL-MALEH, SAYING: "My reaction is that all his speech is a kind of propaganda and made up of lies. He wants to say to the international community and to the Arab world that he is good and he is going to change, but he will not. He is not going to do anything differently." And in Jordan's capital Amman, a Syrian refugee says Assad's speech is just more empty words. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SYRIAN REFUGEE ABU KHALED, SAYING: "It is the same speech as the one before, and the one before that. The first, the second and the third speech - they're all the same. There is nothing new in it. We were hoping to hear something new, but there is nothing serious. There are words, but no actions. There have been many words, but nothing has been done." The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed by Syrian security forces. Syrian authorities maintain that foreign-backed 'terrorists' have killed 2,000 members of the security forces. Travis Brecher, Reuters