BEIRUT: The United States says it has “no knowledge” of the whereabouts of Jihad Makdissi, a U.S. State Department official said in remarks published Wednesday, following media reports the former Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman had defected and was in the United States.
The official, who spoke to pan-Arab newspaper Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat, added that the State Department could not confirm or deny reports that the CIA has helped Makdissi flee to the U.S.
Britain’s The Guardian reported Tuesday that American intelligence officials had secured safe passage for Makdissi to the United States.
According to the daily, the U.S. officials helped Makdissi flee to Washington in late November after the Syrian official made his way from his home country to the Lebanese capital Beirut.
The paper said it learned that Makdissi was granted asylum in the United States and was now co-operating with U.S. intelligence.
There have been conflicting reports as to the whereabouts of Makdissi.
A U.S. Embassy official in Beirut told The Daily Star Friday rumors that Makdissi was at the U.S. mission in Lebanon were “absolutely false.”
However, the official would not confirm or deny whether Makdissi had been in Embassy since leaving Syria.
Another Syrian political source said Friday they understood Makdissi had traveled to the United States last week with the assistance of U.S. diplomatic officials.
The pro-Syrian government newspaper Al-Watan said in early December that Makdissi took a sanctioned leave for three months, following reports of the diplomat's resignation.
Lebanon’s Al-Liwaa newspaper said in a report last week that Makdissi was in the U.K. but the British embassy in Beirut has denied the claim.
In Wednesday’s Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat report, the U.S. official described defections in Syria as “important” and that the U.S. expected more individuals to abandon Syrian President Bashar Assad.