UNITED NATIONS — Syria's foreign minister brought his regime's case before the world Monday, accusing the United States and its allies of promoting "terrorism" and blaming neighbors and extremists and the media for escalating the war — but not the Syrian government.
Addressing ministers and diplomats from the United Nations' 193 member states as fighting spread in the historic Old City of Aleppo, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem lashed out Washington and Arab and European capitals' calls for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down, calling them interference in Syria's domestic affairs.
Moallem accused extremists of prolonging the crisis and denounced the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey for supporting the opposition's "terrorism."
"This terrorism which is externally supported is accompanied by unprecedented media provocation based on igniting religious extremism sponsored by well-known states in the region," he told the U.N. General Assembly.
Members of the opposition said it was common knowledge that neighboring Arab countries were supporting and financing the rebels but said the Assad government had brought it upon itself after cracking down on protests that began peacefully 18 months ago.
"It is the regime's mindless, brutal and criminal, military crackdown that pushed the Syrian people to ask for help from the international community, from NATO and from the devil himself if necessary to protect them," Haitham Manna, a Paris-based Syrian dissident, told the Associated Press.
Moallem's speech followed his meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon in which the U.N. chief condemned "in the strongest terms the continued killings, massive destruction, human rights abuses, and aerial and artillery attacks committed by the government," according to a statement by his office.