Syrian President Bashar Assad says his country is being subjected to an unprecedented attack and says the conflict can only be solved through a popular movement.

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.

He called on all Syrians to take part in an initiative that would end the nearly 22-month old conflict, but did not give any details on the plan.