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Assad talked once again about foreign conspiracy and that the Arab League is a cover for a foreign intervention without pointing out that the Arab League wants, through its plan, to protect the Syrian people,” he said.

A Syria-based activist was dismayed at what he said was a rambling speech.

Bashar is completely removed from reality, as if he is talking about a country other than Syria,” said the man, who identified himself by his nickname, Abu Hamza, because of fear of reprisals.

Also Tuesday, Mr. Assad also accused hundreds of media outlets of working against Syria and claimed an interview he gave to Barbara Walters of ABC last month was altered and accused the network of “professional fabrication.”

“They failed, but they have not given up,” he said of media outlets in the speech, which was broadcast live on state television.

Since the start of the uprising, Mr. Assad has blamed a conspiracy and media fabrications for the unrest — allegations that the opposition and most observers dismiss. The regime has banned most foreign news outlets and prevented independent reporting.

In recent months, Syria‘s conflict has turned increasingly violent as army defectors turn their weapons on the regime and some protesters take up arms to protect themselves.

Syria agreed in December to an Arab League-brokered plan that calls for an end to the military crackdown on protesters, but killings have continued.

About 165 Arab League monitors are in Syria to determine whether the regime is abiding by the plan to stop violence and pull heavy weapons out of the cities.

The United Nations estimated several weeks ago that more than 5,000 people have been killed since March. Since that report, opposition activists say hundreds more have died.

Adnan al-Khudeir, head of the Cairo operations room that the monitors report to, said more observers will head to Syria in the coming days and the delegation should reach 200. He said the mission then will expand its work in Syria to reach the eastern province of Deir el-Zour and predominantly Kurdish areas to the northeast.

Mr. Assad also said that he was implementing reforms and that a referendum on a new constitution should be held in March. As it stands now, the constitution enshrines his Baath party as the leader of the state.

But Mr. Assad emphasized the measures are not coming because of pressure from the crisis.

“If reform is forced, it will fail,” he said. “Reform for us is the natural path.”

Associated Press reporter Albert Aji contributed to this report from Damascus, Syria.