Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has mentioned his country is in “a state of war”, more than a year after the uprising against his rule began.
Addressing his new cabinet, Mr Assad stated that all efforts had to be directed towards winning the war.
Earlier, activists stated fierce fighting in the suburbs of the capital Damascus had been the worst there so far.
The fresh clashes came amid heightened tensions with neighbouring Turkey over the downing of a military jet.
“We reside in a genuine state of war from all angles,” President Assad told members of the cabinet who had been sworn in on Tuesday.
“When we are in a war, all policies and all sides and all sectors need to be directed at winning this war.”
He criticised countries that have been calling for him to stand down, saying that the West “requires and in no way gives and this has been confirmed at every single stage”.
President Assad has promised reforms but the opposition says they do not go far sufficient
He added: “We want very good relations with all countries but we must know exactly where our interests lie.”
Earlier the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that fierce clashes took place close to Republican Guard positions in Qadsaya and al-Hama, about 8km (5 miles) from the centre of Damascus.
Correspondents say it is uncommon for fighting to take place near Republican Guard bases and suggests a developing self-confidence amongst the rebels.
The elite Republican Guard, led by President Assad’s younger brother Maher, is tasked with protecting the capital.
State Tv confirmed the fighting but stated dozens of “terrorists” had been killed and many other people taken prisoner, including foreign fighters.
It stated significant numbers of armed rebels had moved into al-Hama and tried to take control of a principal road to the west in order to bring in more arms and fighters.
Sources and more information:
Russia stands by Assad Fierce fighting has been reported between Syrian troops and rebel forces in the suburbs of the capital Damascus. Witnesses say it is some of the most intense violence in the area since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began more than a year ago. Reports from activists, which cannot be verified, say rebels…
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is now publicly saying that his country is in a state of war. Earlier, there were reports from the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that Syria’s elite Republican guard clashes with opposition forces in the suburbs just outside Damascus. Turkey continues to protest the shooting down of its F-4…