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Syria's foreign minister accuses US of promoting 'terrorism'

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Members of the opposition said it was common knowledge that these 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 veteran Syrian dissident who heads the external branch of the National Coordination Body opposition group, told The Associated Press.

Al-Moallem's speech followed his meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in which the U.N. chief "raised 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 press office. "He stressed that it was the Syrian people who were being killed every day, and appealed to the Government of Syria to show compassion to its own people."

The Syrian foreign minister in his address invited the opposition to "work together to stop the shedding of Syrian blood" and said that a Syrian-led dialogue could produce a "more pluralistic and democratic" country.

The opposition called the speech a classic case of regime "propaganda," and dismissed his calls for dialogue as not genuine.

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