“We live in a state of real war,” Assad said while presiding over the first session of the new government, the state-run news service reported. “And when we live in a state of war, all our policies, directives and all sectors will be directed in order to gain victory in this war.”
It is the second time in recent weeks that Assad has addressed the nation warning that Syria is at war. He has blamed the rebellion against his rule on a “foreign conspiracy” that is using Islamic militants to overthrow his secular leadership.
Assad has pledged to battle on.
He made his comments before members of a new government who were elected as part of a “reform” process that includes a revamped constitution that allows for multiparty elections. Opposition activists have called the reforms a sham, and they boycotted the elections.
Syria is entering the 16th month of a rebellion that has cost more than 10,000 lives. Syrian security forces are battling armed rebels on several fronts, including several restive suburbs of Damascus, the capital. Intense fighting was reported Tuesday in several Damascus suburbs, said opposition activists, who accused the government of shelling civilian neighborhoods.
Damascus has been spared much of the violence that has battered provinces including Homs, Hama and Idlib. However, reports from the city indicate that security has been stepped up in recent weeks. Syria's two largest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, are considered bastions of support for Assad.
The ongoing rebellion has become the most concerted challenge to Assad, whose family has ruled Syria since 1970. Assad succeeded his late father, Hafez, in 2000.
-- Patrick J. McDonnell
Photo: Syrian President Bashar Assad addresses the new government in Damascus on Tuesday. Credit: Syrian Arab News Agency