‘Syria will remain the beating heart of the Arab world’: Assad

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday stressed that his regime, battered by nearly two years of revolt, will not submit to pressure or “plots” against it, reported state news agency SANA.

“Syria will remain the beating heart of the Arab world and will not give up its principles despite the intensifying pressure and diversifying plots not only targeting Syria, but all Arabs,” Assad said at a meeting with a Jordanian delegation in Damascus.

The statement came after Syrian opposition chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib said he had received “no clear response” from Damascus over his offer of dialogue.

Khatib said in late January he was prepared to hold direct talks with regime representatives who did not have “blood on their hands,” and so long as the discussions addressed replacing Assad.

The Assad regime had said it was open to talks but without pre-conditions.

The Syrian uprising began with mass peaceful protests in March 2011 and steadily grew into an armed insurgency amid continued state crackdowns.

Air raids, shelling attacks and fighting has left over 60,000 people dead since then according to the U.N., the vast majority in the second year of the conflict.

On Monday, the Syrian Military Council said that Assad regime has fired two scud missiles on the northern part of the country.

The opposition media also reported that clashes were taking place between the Syrian regime and the Free Syrian Army at Hama military airport.

A Syrian minibus has also exploded at a crossing on Turkey’s border with Syria near the Turkish town of Reyhanli, killing at least 12 people including Turkish citizens and wounding dozens more, Turkish officials reported Monday.

Meanwhile, President Assad met earlier on Monday with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Yuhanna X Yazigi, SANA reported.

“President Bashar al-Assad welcomed Patriarch Yuhanna X Yazigi,” the agency said, adding “Assad congratulated the patriarch for the key role played by the Orthodox Church in maintaining national unity, in the face of the attacks suffered by Syria.”

Assad also congratulated the religious leader on his enthronement, which took place on Sunday in Damascus despite violence in the capital. The embattled president thanked the patriarch for the church’s “message of love...and mercy.”

State television broadcast images of Assad and the patriarch talking and smiling.

On Sunday, the patriarch voiced hope that “Syria, the government and the people, will find the gate of salvation through dialogue and a peaceful political solution to avert violence and re-establish the stability and peace Syria has always known.”

A blast on Monday rocked the Qasaa district of Damascus where the patriarch was enthroned, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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