Middle East

Syrian opposition say two ministers defect with PM

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appointed Hijab, a former agriculture minister, as prime minister in June following a parliamentary election in May which authorities said was a step towards political reform but which opponents dismissed as a sham. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri/Files

BEIRUT: The opposition Syrian National Council said on Monday two government ministers and three senior army officers had defected to Jordan along with Prime Minister Riyad Hijab, but the assertions could not be immediately verified.

SNC executive member Bassam Ishak said three officers with rank of brigadier-general and two ministers, whose names were not disclosed, had joined Hijab in deserting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad 17 months into a revolt against his rule.

An official source in the Jordanian capital Amman confirmed that Hijab had gone over to the anti-Assad opposition after fleeing across the border with his family.

"There were a number of officials with (Hijab) but we are still taking some steps so there is no hurry in identifying them," said another SNC member, Ahmed Ramadan.

"In order to prevent some pre-emptive strikes, there must be caution in some of the announcements."

Ramadan said another 15 Syrian diplomats and political figures were planning to defect. "We consider that the unravelling of the regime has entered a very sensitive phase and the SNC is dealing with it very seriously," he said.





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