Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Tuesday that his country, in the grips of an anti-regime uprising now in its 16th month, is in a “real situation of war.”
“We are witnessing a real situation of war,” the state news agency SANA quoted Assad as telling a meeting of the new Syrian cabinet.
However, he insisted that “when one is in a state of war, all our policies and capabilities must be used to secure victory.”
Meanwhile, AFP reported, the United States on Tuesday said that a “desperate” Assad was slowly losing his grip on power, citing recent defections of army officers and soldiers to neighboring Turkey and Jordan.
“Clearly, Bashar al-Assad has been slowly -- too slowly -- losing his grip over his country,” the French news agency quoted White House spokesman Jay Carney as having said.
Syria has been hit by deadly violence that has claimed more than 15,000 lives since an uprising erupted in March 2011 against Assad's regime.
Assad, who has made rare public appearances since the uprising erupted, insists that his regime is battling “armed terrorist groups.”
The violence continued on Tuesday, as clashes between forces loyal to Assad and rebels outside Damascus resulted in dozens killed.
Activists said the bloodletting outside the capital marks the worst violence in the suburbs of Damascus since the popular uprising against Assad's rule began.
NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen condemned the incident, saying, "We consider this act to be unacceptable and condemn it in the strongest terms…It is another example of the Syrian authorities' disregard for international norms, peace and security, and human life."
On Monday, Turkey filed a complaint with the UN against Syria over the downing of the jet. Turkey said the jet was shot down without warning and without provocation.