Assad speech aims to rally troops

Syrian President Bashar Assad has made a rare public statement urging his armed forces to step up the fight against rebels as the uprising agaisnt him continues to rage.

Assad has not spoken publicly since a bombing killed four of his top security aides two weeks ago. the latest written statement was carried by the state-run news agency.

"In the war in which the country is embroiled and the battle against criminal and terrorist gangs, the army has proven its mettle," he said, adding that the Syrian people have shown themselves not easily "tamed" by foreign plots.

Assad was speaking to the army on the 67th anniversary of its founding. He called it the "homeland's shield" against foreign plots.

"I have great confidence in you and the masses see you as a source of pride and honour ... and a defender of just causes," he said.

While there have been many defections from the rank and file and even a few generals, Syria's armed forces for the most part have remained cohesive. Supported by heavy weapons, they have been slowly regaining momentum against the rag tag rebel army.