Bashar Asad: refuses to end state of emergency
SYRIA is braced for a violent showdown today as opposition activists vow to defy Bashar al-Assad, their increasingly intransigent president, by bringing hundreds of thousands of supporters on to the streets.
As night fell yesterday, more than 60 military vehicles were seen driving into the southern city of Deraa, where scores of protesters have died at the hands of Mr Assad's security forces since unrest against his regime erupted a fortnight ago.
By word of mouth and on the internet, calls have gone out for a major show of force by protesters in towns and cities across Syria, amid mounting anger at the president's refusal to offer anything other than token concessions.
Confounding expectations that he would announce reforms and lift Syria's hated state of emergency, Mr Assad appeared in public for the first time on Wednesday to denounce the protesters as foreign-backed conspirators. The uncompromising address delighted MPs, who praised their president of 11 years with outbursts of apparently spontaneous poetry, but left many Syrians aghast.
Shortly after he finished speaking, thousands took to the streets of the city of Latakia. In an ominous indication of what could be to come, they immediately came under fire.
According to reports that began to emerge from the city, which has been sealed off by the security forces, up to 25 people may have been killed.
"People were furious and they came on to the streets to peacefully vent their anger," said a Syrian opposition activist. "But immediately they came under fire, from the security forces and from unidentified people in passing cars." (© Daily Telegraph, London)