CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad defied expectations and dashed widespread hopes during an anticipated nationally televised speech Wednesday when he made no mention of lifting a state of emergency.
In his rambling 45-minute speech to the National Assembly, he acknowledged that Syrians want reform and that the government has not met their needs.
Making several references to an anti-Syria "conspiracy" and threats to "stability," al-Assad said strife cannot win out over future reforms.
"Although President al-Assad did acknowledge the need for reform, his failure to address head-on the lifting of the state of emergency smacks of procrastination," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and Africa. "He could declare this tomorrow if he wanted.
"He should have immediately ordered his security forces to stop using unwarranted force and announced steps towards implementing key human rights reforms."
U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said "the speech fell short of the type of reforms the Syrian people demanded" and lacked substance.
Al-Assad made few concrete promises after weeks of anti-government demonstrations that have left at least 61 people dead, according to Human Rights Watch.
The address "failed to commit to a specific reform agenda that would safeguard public freedoms and judicial independence and prohibit the Syrian government from encroaching on human rights," the group said.
Reem Haddad, a spokeswoman for the Syrian Information Ministry, told CNN the emergency law "will be lifted," but she said procedures must be worked out.
"The president presented his own vision" on an announced package of reforms, Haddad said. Details will come in a "limited time frame," she added.
Asked if Syrians received enough information, Haddad said, "I wouldn't say the people expected more."
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