CAIRO – Syria’s 12-day-old protest movement was hoping for major concessions from President Bashar al-Assad.

What protesters got instead was a declaration that they were dupes of unnamed enemies conspiring to divide and weaken the champion of Arab nationalism.

Assad, in an internationally televised speech, portrayed himself Wednesday as a reformer eager to respond to complaints from Syria’s 23 million citizens. But the demonstrations that have broken out in Damascus, Daraa, Hama and other Syrian cities since March 18 represent “chaos,” he said, and cannot be tolerated if the country is to remain strong in the struggle against Israeli occupation of Arab land.

“We are for supporting people’s demands, but we cannot support chaos,” he added to cheers from assembled members of the People’s Council, or parliament.

“We are all reformers. Some demands of the people have not been met. But people were duped into taking to the streets.”

The 45-year-old Syrian leader seemed to be betting that his feared security services will be able to put down the protest movement, even at the cost of more bloodshed, and make Syria an exception to the regional uprisings that have toppled presidents in Tunisia and Egypt, precipitated civil war in Libya and threatened several long-serving leaders elsewhere. The first test of his calculation, Syrians said, is likely to come Friday, when some activists have called for another round of demonstrations.

The Syrian protests have resulted in about 60 deaths, according to human rights groups.

The protests have raised the most serious threat to Assad since he took over leadership from his deceased father 11 years ago as the head of a one-party government based on Arab nationalism, confrontation with Israel and invasive control by about a half-dozen security agencies.

Pro-democracy activists were particularly disappointed that Assad did not announce an end to the emergency rule that for the past 48 years has suffocated civil liberties and guaranteed a monopoly on political life by the ruling Baath Party.