Syria's Assad to address parliament

A woman of the Syrian community in Romania holds a baby during a protest against the violence in Syria in Bucharest, Romania on June 2 2012.(Grigore Popescu, AP)

A woman of the Syrian community in Romania holds a baby during a protest against the violence in Syria in Bucharest, Romania on June 2 2012.(Grigore Popescu, AP)

The speech on Sunday comes after Arab leaders called on the United Nations to act to stop bloodshed that has persisted for nearly 15 months despite a UN-backed peace plan that includes the deployment of nearly 300 observers.

The plan was drawn up by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, who on Saturday singled out Assad and his regime as the key to resolving the conflict as he warned of the spectre of all-out sectarian warfare.

Since the so-called ceasefire began on April 12, as many as 2 300 people have been killed out of the more than 13 400 to have died in Syria since the uprising against Assad’s regime began in March 2011.

Last month, Assad said his government was capable of finding a way out of the crisis gripping his country.

“Syria has been able to overcome the pressures and threats it has faced for years and is able to get out of this crisis thanks to the strength of its people and commitment to unity and independence,” he said.

Assad’s comments came as parliament convened for the first time since a controversial May 7 election boycotted by the opposition and dismissed by the West as a farce.

Despite changes to the constitution ending the Baath’s five-decade domination of power, more than 160 of the 250 members of parliament are Baathists, and the legislature voted 225-8 to elect ruling party member Jihad Lahham as its speaker. – Sapa-AFP

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