Syrian supporters of President Bashar Assad, carry his picture during a rally after Friday prayers outside the Omayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria, Friday, March 25, 2011. Thousands of Syrians took to the streets Friday demanding reforms and mourning dozens of protesters who were killed during a violent, week long crackdown that has brought extraordinary pressure on the country's autocratic regime, activists and witnesses said. (AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi)
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- Syrian President Bashar Assad has blamed a wave of protests on "conspirators" who are trying to destroy the country.
Assad is giving his first address to the nation since the protests erupted in this tightly controlled Arab country.
As he entered Parliament for Wednesday's speech, legislators chanted "God, Syria and Bashar only!" and "Our souls, our blood we sacrifice for you Bashar."
The speech is seen as a crucial test for his leadership and one that may determine Syria's future.