Nightly News   |  January 06, 2013

Assad makes rare speech, refuses to back down

Nearly two years after the beginning of a civil war in Syria, an estimated 60,000 people have died. In a rare speech Sunday, President Bashar al-Assad refused to end the conflict. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reports.

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>>> the crisis in syria and a rare public speech today from that country's embattled president, bashar al assad . nbc's stephanie gosk monitoring developments tonight from cairo. stephanie you good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, lester. bashar al assad does not show up in public much these days. his last speech was back in june. he spoke live today to his country, conceding nothing and as defiant as ever. in a packed opera near the damascus, supporters jumped to their feet and cheered for syria 's president. "we will die for you," they shouted. the syrian leader did propose a new political solution to syria 's conflict, a cease-fire, national reconciliation, eventually august new koon tuesday. but most of his address seemed to prove just how far off that possibility really is. he called the opposition terrorists, puppets of the west. assad said his government will not negotiate until regional countries stop funding rebel fighters. he still thinks that much of the operation is fundamentally illegitimate. he blames them for the violence. he is trying to remind his foreign sponsors in places like iran and russia that he still is interested in a fight.

>> reporter: the united nations estimatible near thely 2-year-long conflict has killed 60,000 people. efforts to broker a political deal are deadlock.

>> more syrians will die in 2013 than 2012 . it will be a carnage, a bloodbath.

>> reporter: activists say one of the deadliest attacks in recent days was at a gas station in damascus, killing nine. around the country, people are suffering, thousands cut off, no electricity, water and food there are hundreds of thousands of refugees, including this woman in a camp in jordan. bash shar only speaks, she says. if he was right, he would not make us homeless. he would not destroy our homes. today, assad blamed all of his country's hardships on the opposition. he gave no sign he will ever leave syria . and when the speech ended, the resolute president was swarmed. his security team forced to push adoring supporters away. the leadership of the opposition say they will negotiate as long as assad is in power and this evening, the u.s. state department responded to the speech, saying this was just another attempt by the regime to hold on to that power. lester?

>> stephanie gosk in cairo tonight. thanks.