BEIRUT - Syrian President Bashar Assad has outlined a new peace initiative that includes a national reconciliation conference and a new constitution.
Assad, however, says the initiative can only take roots after regional and Western countries stop funding what he called militant extremists fighting to overthrow him.
Assad spoke Sunday in a rare speech addressing the nation, his first since June.
As in previous speeches, he said his forces were fighting groups of "murderous criminals" and jihadi elements and denied there was an uprising against his family's decades-long rule.
He struck a defiant tone, saying Syria will not take dictates from anyone.
His initiative is likely to be rejected by opposition forces and rebels, who insist he must step down.
Syrian activists reported heavy clashes between rebels and government forces around the country ahead of the speech.
Meanwhile, Israel's prime minister says he will erect a fortified fence on the border with Syria to protect against radical Islamist forces that he claims have taken over the area.
Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel needs a barrier like a new Egyptian border fence that he says has stemmed the flow of African migrants. He said the Syrian regime was "unstable" and Israel was concerned about the country's chemical weapons. He told his Cabinet Sunday that across the frontier "the Syrian army has moved away, and in its place, Global Jihad forces have moved in."
Syria's rebels include some al-Qaida-allied fighters