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Assad: Media, tech crushing Arabs

• Assad urges Baath economic reform
Baath Party

DAMASCUS, Syria (CNN) -- Syrian President Bashar Assad has said the media and technological revolution sweeping the region and the world is helping his country's foes to undermine and crush the Arab identity.

Assad told the congress of Syria's ruling Baath Party on Monday that a media influx had left Arabs "swamped by disinformation" about themselves.

"These many inputs, especially with the evolution of communication and information technology, made the society open, and this opened the door for some confusion and suspicion in the minds of Arab youth.

"The ultimate objective of all this is the destruction of Arab identity; for the enemies of the Arab nation are opposed to our possessing any identity or upholding any creed that could protect our existence and cohesion, guide our vision and direction, or on which we can rely in our steadfastness," Assad said Monday.

"We must face this situation with great awareness, responsibility and defiance."

Focusing on the swirl of modern information and the huge influx of ideas to the region, Assad said that development was being exploited by what he said were the region's enemies.

Delivering the opening address of his party's congress, the first in five years, Assad also urged its members to make reform of the economy and fighting corruption their priorities. (Full story)

"We have to reorder our priorities and tackle the most important and go from there. The economic situation is a priority for all of us," he told the gathering.

"We need mechanisms to fight corruption that are more effective," he added.

The Syrian leader -- who has been under immense pressure by Washington and the West for its former presence in Lebanon and for its suspected role in helping the insurgency in Iraq -- used rhetoric that is customarily used to describe the United States and Israel.

He referred to "forces behind" the modern trends that would exploit and generate societal upheaval in the Arab world, leading "to the cultural, political and moral collapse of the Arab individual and his ultimate defeat without a fight."

"They simply aim at transforming us into a negative, reactive mass, which absorbs everything that is thrown at it without the will or even the possibility of thinking or rejecting or accepting it."

The information revolution has had a wide-ranging effect on the Arab world, with the Internet and Arabic-language TV transforming attitudes from Mauritania to Iraq.

Beirut Bureau Chief Brent Sadler contributed to this report.

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