Syria's Assad says his government will prevail, despite efforts of Gulf states (+video)
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Friday the rebels will be defeated, the same day a Syrian opposition group announced the Assad regime is behind the disappearance of two of its leaders.
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Syria's ties with the Gulf nations have been strained in the past — Assad once called Saudi King Abdullah and other Arab leaders "half men" for being critical of Hezbollah over the 34-day war between the Lebanese Shiite militant group and Israel in 2006.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Reaching a critical juncture in Syria
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In the briefing, Assad added that the only way to solve the Syrian crisis is through "dialogue with the opposition" and that the "door for dialogue is open."
Most Syrian opposition groups reject any talks with the regime, saying they will not accept anything less than Assad's departure from power and the dissolving of his regime's security agencies.
Abdul-Azim, the opposition leader, repeated that stance and said the opposition wants a "new regime that represents the will of the people."
He added his group will go ahead with the plans for Sunday's opposition conference despite the disappearance of the two leaders. The gathering will invite European ambassadors, envoys from China and Russia, which back the regime.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday that nearly 30,000 Syrians have been killed during the 18-month uprising against the Assad regime, providing an updated death toll.
The Observatory's count includes 20,935 civilians; 1,153 army defectors fighting alongside the rebels; and 7,141 Syrian troops fighting for the Assad regime — which gives a total of 29,229, said the head of the group, Rami Abdul-Rahman.
The list is compiled from reports by witnesses and medical staff, he said, adding that he only includes those identified by name or whose death was authenticated by amateur video. Several thousand who are presumed dead, including pro-Assad troops, have been kept off the list because the bodies could not be identified.
Another Syrian opposition group, the Local Coordination Committees, put the overall death toll at 26,405. However, its count does not include Syrian troops killed in battle. The LCC relies on a network of activists in Syria to collect its information.
Fighting in Syria has intensified in recent week, with the regime increasingly relying on airstrikes to try to drive rebels out of territory they are holding, particularly in the country's north. The air attacks, along with the use of heavy weapons by some of the rebels, have driven up the daily death toll, said Abdul-Rahman.
On Thursday, more than 250 people were killed, including 199 civilians, five army defectors and 46 regimes soldiers, Abdul-Rahman said. August has been the bloodiest month so far, with nearly 5,000 dead.
Meanwhile, in Syria's northeastern town of Ein al-Arab, a gunman on a motorcycle shot dead a leading Kurdish opposition figure, Mahmoud Wali, also known as Abu Jandi, as he walked out of his office late Thursday, Kurdish activists Mustafa Osso and Ibrahim Issa said.
Wali was a senior member of the Kurdish National Council, which includes several Kurdish groups.
Osso said it is still not clear who was behind what he said was a "political assassination."
On Friday, activists reported clashes and shelling in different areas around Syria, with the fighting being most intense in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria's largest city and commercial capital. The fighting there came a day after regime airstrikes hit a gas station in northern Syria, setting off a fiery explosion that killed at least 30 people and wounded dozens.
IN PICTURES: Conflict in Syria