World Bulletin / News Desk
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Tuesday his country was in a state of war and ordered his newly appointed government to direct all its efforts towards vanquishing the uprising against him.
"We live in a real state of war from all angles," Assad told a cabinet he appointed on Tuesday in a speech aired on Syrian state television. "When we are in a war, all policies and all sides and all sectors need to be directed at winning this war."
Assad dismissed the arguments of Western countries that have been calling for him to step aside. The West "takes and never gives and this has been proven at every stage," he said.
"We want good relations with all countries but we must know where our interests lie," he said.
Syrian forces are accused by the United Nations of killing more than 10,000 people during a 16-month revolt that has posed the greatest threat to four decades of Assad family rule.
The president's speech - which also included comments on the benefits of renewable energy and the strategic importance of the Syrian agriculture sector, while troops and rebels battled on the outskirts of Damascus - will be seen as an escalation of Assad's firm rhetoric that has shown no sign of compromise.
He said Syrians would learn to support the government once it better explained its plans for political reforms.
"When we transparently communicate with citizens, the citizens will understand and support us," he said.
"As I have always said, the problem is communicating with the citizen... When we don't explain, the citizen does not know what their capabilities are, so the minister or the government will not be evaluated objectively."
A US defense official confirmed artillery is being used in the operation.
The country's health infrastructure is on the brink of collapse, with medicines running out and staff going unpaid for several months, the groups said.
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