Syria Says Obama’s Speech Offered 'Nothing New'

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A keynote speech by President Barack Obama on U.S. Middle East policy offered nothing new but simply reaffirmed Washington's staunch support for Israel, Syria's official SANA news agency said on Friday.

"The U.S. president's speech on the Middle East had nothing new as far as his country's policies on the peace process, the situation in Iraq or security or regional stability are concerned," the news agency said.

It added that Obama's speech, carried live on Syrian television, and “reaffirmed the deep-rooted and unwavering support for Israel's security."

The government newspaper al-Thawra criticized Obama saying: "He speaks under the banner of democracy without knowing the meaning of the word."

It accused the U.S. president of "arrogance" in calling for Syrian President Bashar Assad to embrace democracy or step down.

"He (Obama) didn't forget his arrogance in telling a sovereign country what to do ... and threatening to isolate this country if it fails to do as it is told."

The ruling party's al-Baath newspaper said the long-awaited speech was "disappointing" and had failed to deliver on expectations.

Washington and its European allies imposed sanctions on Assad and his top aides this week in a bid to pressure his authoritarian regime to stop a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests roiling the country for two months.

"President Assad now has a choice," Obama said in his speech on Thursday. "He can lead that transition or get out of the way.

"The Syrian government must stop shooting demonstrators and allow peaceful protests."

SANA said Obama's appeal was not aimed at easing tensions in Syria but rather at sowing discord.

"He is inciting violence when he says that Assad and his regime will face challenges from the inside and will be isolated on the outside if he fails to adopt democratic reforms," the news agency said.

More than 850 people have been killed and thousands arrested since the protests began in mid-March, according to human rights groups and the United Nations.

Assad's government has blamed the violence on "armed terrorist gangs" backed by Islamists and foreign agitators.

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