Syrian president says he is fighting jihadists

January 6, 2013
A boy is seen through a car window as he rides on the back of a truck in the streets of Aleppo, Syria, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013. The revolt against President Bashar Assad that started in March 2011 began with peaceful protests but morphed into a civil war that has killed more than 60,000 people, according to a recent United Nations recent estimate. (AP Photo/ Andoni Lubaki)

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian President Bashar Assad says his country is being subjected to an unprecedented attack and says the conflict can only be solved through a popular movement.

Assad spoke Sunday in a rare speech addressing the nation, his first since June.

As in previous speeches, he said his forces were fighting groups of "murderous criminals" and jihadi elements and denied there was an uprising against his family's decades-long rule.

He struck a defiant tone, saying Syria will not take dictates from anyone.

He called on all Syrians to take part in an initiative that would end the nearly 22-month old conflict, but did not give any details on the plan.