(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- In a fiery speech televised to his nation on Sunday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad vowed "the enemies of God will go to hell" -- a further sign that there will be no quick end to the 22-month civil war that the United Nations estimates has cost more than 60,000 lives.
The diatribe before an auditorium full of supporters was a far cry from his last publicized address six months earlier in which al-Assad seemed to be leaning toward a more unified Syria.
But with the nation now more fragmented -- perhaps beyond repair -- and calls from the international community growing louder for him to leave office, al-Assad appears more determined than ever to make a final stand while denying his government is responsible for the widespread violence that has transpired since March 2011.
According to the Syrian leader, "This is a conflict of those who wanted to take revenge against the people to fragment Syria. Those are the enemies of the people and the enemies of God."
Al-Assad has repeatedly called rebel fighters "terrorists" influenced by foreigners, and the tone of Sunday's speech suggested that he's moving beyond that, telling supporters, "The conflict, ladies and gentlemen, is between the homeland and its enemies -- between the people and the killers and the criminals."
The Syrian president did again offer a peace plan that called for the rebels to first lay down the arms before his military does. Al-Assad said that the next steps would include a transitional government, a new constitution and finally, a new government.
However, he made no mention of stepping down, which is an immediate deal breaker as far as his enemies are concerned.
Meanwhile, Syria's main dissident group recognized by the international community, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, is pleading with the U.N. Security Council for help in its battle against al-Assad's forces.
In a letter late last week, the group wrote, "Our people are subjected to genocide, and our country is being destroyed as the international silence is only encouraging the regime to commit more crimes against humanity. Halting massacres in Syria is an international obligation everyone should bear responsibility for."
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