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Assad’s speech met with disdain

Syrian President Bashar Al Assad delivered a speech in Damascus, Syria, Jan. 6. Assad, in his first public remarks since November, ruled out dialogue with opposition groups he called 'puppets' of the West and vowed to continue battling 'terrorists' and 'gangsters' fighting to overthrow his regime.

Syrian Arab News Agency handout, via EPA

Syrian President Bashar Al Assad delivered a speech in Damascus, Syria, Jan. 6. Assad, in his first public remarks since November, ruled out dialogue with opposition groups he called 'puppets' of the West and vowed to continue battling 'terrorists' and 'gangsters' fighting to overthrow his regime.

BEIRUT — Ban Ki-moon, the UN’s secretary general, on Monday expressed disappointment with President Bashar Assad of Syria for rejecting the most important elements of an international road map to end the country’s civil war: a political handover and establishment of a transitional governing body.

Assad in a rare speech Sunday outlined his vision for ending the country’s conflict with a plan that would keep him in power. He also dismissed any chance of dialogue with the armed opposition and called on Syrians to fight what he called ‘‘murderous criminals.’’

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UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said Monday the secretary general is disappointed that Assad’s speech ‘‘does not contribute to a solution that could end the terrible suffering of the Syrian people.’’ Nesirky said Ban and UN and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi will continue to work for a political transition that leads to UN-organized elections.

The West, including the United States and Britain, denounced Assad’s speech.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey also criticized the Syrian leader’s initiative. He accused Assad of ‘‘state terrorism’’ and called on him to relinquish power.

The violence on the ground continued unabated Monday.

Syria’s state media said government troops repulsed a rebel attack on a police school in the northern city of Aleppo.

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The official SANA news agency said regime forces killed and wounded members of a ‘‘terrorist group’’ in the fighting late Sunday, but did not provide a number. The government and the proregime media refer to the rebels seeking to topple Assad as terrorists.

Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and former commercial hub, has been a major front in the civil war since July, with battles often raging for control of military and security facilities such as the police school. Rebels have recently made gains around Aleppo, as well as in the east and in the capital, Damascus, bringing the war closer to the seat of Assad’s power.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels clashed with troops in the suburbs of Damascus, including in Daraya south of the capital. The Observatory said the army sent reinforcements to join an offensive aimed at dislodging rebels from the district, located near a strategic air base. Activists also reported shelling and fighting in southern Syria, as well as eastern and central parts of the country.

In a separate development Monday, the Dutch military shipped Patriot missiles to Turkey, a fellow NATO member, after the alliance agreed in December to deploy the antimissile systems along Turkey’s southern border with Syria.

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