Assad: 'I realize there is a gap between the state, people'

Syrian president addresses country in response to massive nationwide protests, urges patience, dialogue with unions and populace, says state of emergency could be lifted as soon as next week.

Assad 311 reuters (photo credit: reuters)
Assad 311 reuters
(photo credit: reuters)
Syrian President Bashar Assad addressed his nation Saturday in response to massive anti-government protests.
At the first meeting of the new Syrian government in Damascus, he stressed the importance of cooperation between government institutions and the people.
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Assad admitted that there were faults in his government, but stressed the reforms could not happen immediately and would be only be hindered without popular support.
"I must say that the current situation has caused a lot of pain in the soul of each and every citizen for those who have been martyred," he said. "Investigations are continuing to find out those who are responsible."
He stressed several important points, including lifting the state of emergency. Assad announced that he had requested for his cabinet to lift the state of emergency as early as next week, adding that only then could resolutions be drafted.
Assad's speech, which was wrapped up in under half an hour, marked a significant shift in tone from his previous comments on the popular uprising. He expressed a desire to meet protester's demands and to institute broad reforms that would improve his citizens' quality of life. "The world is rapidly changing around us and we have to keep up with new developments," he said.
Assad also acknowledged Syria's serious economic troubles. "There is no doubt that unemployment remains the biggest problem in the country," he said. "Of course the improvement of the economy will create more jobs, but this will take a long time to develop."
Touching upon the inflammatory issue of Syria's Kurdish sector, he stated with minimal specifics that he was in favor of granting Syrian citizenship to that portion of the population.
He also stressed the need for better communication between the government and its citizens.  "We have to open up new channels between us and the people," he said. "This trust of the people cannot come without complete transparency."
"In my talks with the people I have realized there is a huge gap between the institution of the state and the people," he said. "I realize we need to narrow that gap and fill that space with trust."