U.S., Turkey Slam Assad for Failing to Address Syrian People's Demands

Assad says in a speech responding to three months of protests against his rule, that a national dialogue would begin soon, promising parliamentary elections.

The United States on Monday faulted Syrian President Bashar Assad for failing to address the demands of protesters in his country in a speech that was designed to quell the violent unrest.

"Assad has been making promises to his people for years, for weeks," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. "What's important now is action, not words."

Syrian protester May 2, 2011
A Syrian protester shows his palms as he shouts anti-Syrian President Bashar Assad slogans during a sit-in in front of the UN house in Lebanon, May 2, 2011.AP

"The fact that the Syrian people continue to protest every week indicates that for them, his words are not enough - that what they want is action," she added.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul was also critical of Assad's speech on reforms, saying it was "not enough", and added that Assad should transform Syria into a multi-party system.

Assad on Monday said in a speech responding to three months of protests against his rule, that a national dialogue would begin soon, promising parliamentary elections in August and a complete reform package by September.

In a televised address at Damascus University, Assad also warned that in listening to calls for reforms, the government must distinguish between people with legitimate needs and "saboteurs".

Assad also called on all refugees to return to their homes, and guaranteed their safety, saying that the "army is meant to protect the citizens."

The U.S. has already enacted sanctions on Assad, whose regime has been accused of violent repressions during months of demonstrations. U.S. officials have also said they are gathering information in case an international tribunal decides to pursue criminal charges against the Syrian president.