Beirut: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday blamed 11-month of turmoil in which his forces have cracked down on pro-democracy protesters as a ploy to split the country.
"What Syria is facing is fundamentally an effort to divide it and affect its geopolitical place and historic role in the region," Assad was quoted by Syrian state television as saying, after meeting China`s Vice Foreign Minister in Damascus.
In the meantime, activists say Syrian troops have fired on mourners taking part in a massive funeral procession in the capital.
They say several people were wounded by gunfire in the Damascus neighbourhood of Mazzeh. Tear gas was also fired on the Saturday procession mourning three people killed by security forces following protests in the area a day earlier.
An eyewitness who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals said the procession numbered around 15,000.
That would make it among the largest anti-government gatherings to have taken place in regime-controlled central Damascus during the 11-month uprising against President Bashar Assad.
The witness and the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said several were wounded.