By Magdi Abdelhadi
BBC Arab Affairs Analyst
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has given an uncompromising speech defending his government's policy on key regional and international issues, including the UN investigation into the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Thousands of Syrians gathered outside where Mr Assad spoke
Those who expected a conciliatory speech from Mr Assad will therefore be very disappointed.
He repeated a well-worn account of an international conspiracy against Syria and the entire region, adding that his country was being punished for its staunch defence of the interests of the Arabs.
Mr Assad said a recent UN resolution calling on Damascus to co-operate with the investigation into the assassination of Hariri was drafted even before the initial result of the inquiry was made public.
He cast doubt on the investigation itself, but added that his country would co-operate provided Syrian national interests were not harmed.
Mr Assad's defiant speech could stem from the belief that Washington is bogged down in Iraq and therefore cannot open another front
In effect that means co-operation with the investigation will not be as unconditional as the UN has demanded.
Indeed, Mr Assad disclosed that he was against interrogating Syrian officials outside Syria.
'Going down fighting'
On Iraq, Mr Assad was equally defiant.
He rejected allegations that Syrian territory was being used by the insurgents.
He said the issue of the border with Iraq was another pretext used by Washington to punish Syria because of its unstinting support for the Palestinians and Lebanese resistance to Israeli aggression.
Mr Assad's defiant speech could stem from the belief that Washington is bogged down in Iraq and therefore cannot open another front.
He also believes that the ultimate goal of the pressure on Syria is to bring down his regime, and if that so, then he might as well go down fighting rather than making humiliating concessions.