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Syria's Assad seeks reforms to dismantle 'armed gangs': SANA

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad says he is focused on "political reform" and on tackling "armed groups”

AFP , Sunday 9 Oct 2011
Bashar Assad
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian youth shout slogans and gather around their President Bashar Assad, center, at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier during a ceremony to mark the 38th anniversary of the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war, in Damascus, Syria, on Thursday Oct. 6, 2011. (Photo: AP)
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Syria is taking steps focused on two main fronts -- political reform and the dismantling of armed groups, who seek to destabilise the country, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad told the visiting foreign ministers of Cuba and Venezuela on Sunday, according to the official SANA news agency.

Assad told the ministers that "the Syrian people had welcomed the reforms but that foreign attacks intensified just as the situation in the country began to make progress."

The Syrian president accused Western powers of having "little interest in reform," seeking instead to "push Syria to pay the price for its stances against foreign schemes hatched outside the region."

"Despite everything, a process of reform is underway," he assured them, stressing that Syria's decisions on this matter were "sovereign and not related to foreign instructions."

The foreign ministers of Venezuela and Cuba were at the helm of a delegation of leftist Latin American countries -- that also include Ecuador, Nicaragua and Bolivia -- which travelled to Syria to "show support."

The delegates also denounced the "political and media campaign being waged against Syria," SANA said.

The eight-member ALBA bloc's talks aim to "reject invasion and political destabilisation attempts by the United States and its allies," Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said prior to the visit.

"We reject all forms of interventionism that the empire is trying to apply as it did in Libya for a violent process of regime change," he added.

Washington has renewed its calls for Assad to step down immediately amid escalating violence against anti-regime protesters that has left nearly 3,000 people dead.

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