BEIRUT: Syrian President Bashar Assad struck a defiant and victorious tone over the ongoing Syrian civil war, as he took the oath of office Wednesday for a new seven-year term.
"They did not spare a dirty measure to use, and they failed," Assad said in a speech after taking the oath in the Presidential Palace in Damascus. "Syrians with their votes forced the collapse of terrorist groups and their Syrian agents."
Assad also thanked Syria's allies for their support during the war, including Russia, Iran, China and Lebanon's Hezbollah.
"Let's not forget the faithful ones, the sons of the Lebanese resistance, those heroes who stood by our army heroes and gave martyrs to defend the resistance axis," Assad said, in a reference to Hezbollah.
Assad was re-elected on June 3, in an election widely dismissed as a sham by the West and Syrian opposition figures. Assad won 88.7 percent of the ballots cast, but voting only took place in areas under regime control.
Assad dismissed criticism of the election, pointing to the participation of the other candidates in the elections, a first for Syria.
"The Syrian people can give lessons in democracy," he said.
He also hailed the Syrian people's steadfastness in the face of what he described as a conspiracy against the country.
"They wanted a revolution, but you have been the real revolutionaries. I congratulate you for your revolution and for your victory," Assad said. "Those who lost their way can now see clearly ... the monstruous faces have been unveiled, the mask of freedom and the revolution has fallen."
While saying that many people had fled from the "terrorism of armed groups," Assad said he was optimistic that they would be able to return.
The more than 3-year-old war in Syria has killed over 150,000 people and forced millions to seek refuge in neighboring countries. While the regime has had success in recent months in reclaiming key territory around Damascus, vast swaths of the country remain outside of government control, including territory in eastern Syria that has been claimed as a new caliphate by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria.