Assad speech leaves Hague cold

By Phil Scullion

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's "vague promises" have been criticised by William Hague.

The foreign secretary said the Syrian president's third national address since the beginning of protests in May was "disappointing" and "unconvincing".

Mr Assad blamed a "small faction" for exploiting popular grievances and called for his country to unite so that people's demands for reform could be fulfilled.

He said "saboteurs" were responsible for anti-government protests which have so far left at least 1,300 civilians dead, human rights groups claim.

"What is happening today has nothing to do with reform, it has to do with vandalism," he said.

"The demands of the street do not justify inflicting damage on the country."

Mr Hague said he wanted to see "concrete action" from the Syrian president if he was to restore any credibility with the Syrian people.

"We have been clear that rapid and real implementation of substantial reforms, addressing the legitimate demands of peaceful Syrian protesters, is what is urgently needed," he commented.

"There must also be an immediate end to violence by Syrian security forces, the release of all political prisoners, an end to the torture and abuse of those who remain in detention and access given to international humanitarian agencies," he concluded.

Last week William Hague told the Commons that Britain had circulated a draft UN security council resolution condemning Syria's violent repression of pro-democracy demonstration.