Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has used a rare televised address to the country's newly elected parliament that Syria is the target of a foreign plot.
"The masks have fallen and the international role in the Syrian events is now obvious," Assad said, AFP reported.
"What happened in Houla and elsewhere [in Syria] are brutal massacres which even monsters would not have carried out," he said, referring to the killings on May 25-26 of at least 108 people — including dozens of children.
CNN quoted him as saying: "At this time, we are facing a war from abroad. Dealing with it is different from dealing with people from inside."
In a 70-minute speech, Assad also appeared to encourage rebel fighters to give up their weapons and promised amnesty.
"I encourage all of those who are hesitant to drop their weapons at once, and the government will not seek revenge now or later," he said, according to CNN. "We forgave others who stood against us in the past."
Assad's speech came a day after Arab League leaders met in Doha for an emergency session with UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, Voice of America reported.
France, meantime, has raised the prospect of internationally backed military action against Damascus.
More from GlobalPost: Syria in danger of 'full-fledged conflict,' says UN's Navi Pillay
French foreign minister Alain Juppe said the peace plan brokered by Annan had been "strongly compromised" and that without quick progress, the international community would have "to move on to another step which we have already started raising with our partners, under Chapter Seven of the United Nations charter," Sky News reported.
A Chapter Seven resolution authorises foreign powers to take measures, including military options, and is usually imposed by the UN Security Council.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian stressed Sunday to an Asian security summit in Singapore that while France had "not excluded military intervention" in Syria, it would only occur under a UN mandate.
Annan, meantime, pointed to the growing "specter of all-out war" inside Syria, especially in the wake of events like Houla, VOA wrote.
CNN reported that as Assad spoke, heavy shelling was reported in Homs, with at least five people reported killed in that city, Aleppo and Hama.
More from GlobalPost: Syria 'at a tipping point'