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Assad finally speaks to Syrians: March 30 Mideast update

Syrian President Bashar-al Assad blamed 'external plots' in his first speech since Syrian unrest began. Libya rebels lost ground. In Bahrain, 11 Shiite legislators resigned over the government's crackdown on dissent.

By Correspondent / March 30, 2011

Syrian citizens and hotel guests watch TV in a hotel lobby as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad address Parliament, in Damascus, Syria, on Wednesday, March 30.

Hussein Malla/AP

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Check back weekday mornings for a quick tally of the latest developments in the Middle East and North Africa.

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Syria

President Bashar al-Assad made his much-anticipated address to the country today, blaming "external plots" at least partially for the country's recent unrest, which has sometimes escalated into violent clashes between security forces and protesters. But he also acknowledged that the protesters have some legitimate grievances and indicated he would try to address them.

Libya

Rebel forces were pushed back further Wednesday, almost to the oil town of Brega, in a rapid reversal of fortune for the rebels who had gotten almost to Sirte on Monday. Brega is the last major town before Ajdabiya. The success of Qaddafi's forces has been attributed to superior, more readily available arms.

Israel and the Palestinian Territories

Israel responded to a Tuesday rocket from Gaza with a strike on two Palestinians today, killing one and injuring the other. Israel responded to a Tuesday rocket from Gaza with a strike on two Palestinians today, killing one and injuring the other. UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged Israel to avoid provocative actions at this "crucial time" in Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The deadline for a two-state solution is September.

Bahrain

Bahrain's parliament accepted the resignation of 11 Shiite members on Tuesday over the government's deadly crackdown on protesters. The legislators, all members of the largest opposition group, Al Wafaq, urged Bahrain's protesters to keep challenging the country's Sunni monarchy. Seven others lawmakers have offered resignations that have not yet been accepted.

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