Syria's President To Speak On 'domestic Issues'

Published January 10, 2012 9:00AM (EST)

BEIRUT (AP) — Syria's embattled president will give his first speech Tuesday since he agreed last month to an Arab League plan to halt the government's crackdown on dissent.

State-run media say Bashar Assad will talk about "domestic issues" and regional developments,

Assad has made few public appearances since the anti-government uprising began in March, inspired by the revolutions sweeping the Arab world. The regime's crackdown on dissent has killed thousands and led to international isolation and sanctions.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Monday that the Syrian conflict is sliding toward "civil war" and said it must be stopped. At a joint news conference in the Turkish capital Ankara, Norway Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said there is a need to increase international pressure to force to step down because of massacres by his regime.

"The religious, sectarian and racial structure (in Syria) is going toward a civil war right now. This must be prevented," Erdogan said.

Syria's conflict has turned increasingly violent in recent months as army defectors turn their weapons on the regime and some protesters take up arms to protect themselves.

Syria agreed in December to the Arab-brokered plan that calls for an end to the military crackdown on protesters, but killings have continued.

About 165 Arab League monitors are in Syria to determine whether the regime is abiding by the plan to stop violence and pull heavy weapons out of the cities.

The U.N. estimated several weeks ago that more than 5,000 people have been killed since March. Since that report, opposition activists say hundreds more have died.

Adnan al-Khudeir, head of the Cairo operations room that the monitors report to, said more observers will head to Syria in the coming days and the delegation should reach 200. He said the mission then will expand its work in Syria to reach the eastern province of Deir el-Zour and predominantly Kurdish areas to the northeast.

The Syrian government says that the turmoil is not an uprising but the work of terrorists and foreign-backed armed gangs.

Activists and other observers deny that.

By Salon Staff

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