Middle East

Syria rebels set end of July deadline to defect

A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on July 13, 2012, shows Syrian policemen inspecting the site of a car bomb explosion on Mazzeh highway in the capital Damascus. (AFP PHOTO/HO/SANA)

BEIRUT: Syria's armed rebels on Friday criticised high-profile defector Manaf Tlass and his father while setting an end of July deadline for regime figures to defect or face the risk of assassination.

"We don't consider the departure (from Syria) of Mustafa Tlass and his son, General Manaf, as defections but rather an international ploy" to seek a transition, said the Free Syrian Army (FSA) leadership in the strife-torn state.

"The two Tlasses should honestly tell the Syrian people where they were before (leaving the country) and what was their role since the start of the revolution," it said.

Mustafa Tlass, aged 80 and living in Paris, has remained silent and been following "with sadness" the 16-month uprising in Syria that monitors say has led to more than 17,000 deaths, Firas Tlass, another son, has told Saudi newspapers.

A general in the elite Republican Guards, Manaf Tlass announced his defection earlier this month, in what Washington and Paris termed a serious setback for the Damascus regime.

The FSA on Friday urged "all pillars of the regime, civilian and military, without blood on their hands, to defect immediately and publicly by the end of July.

"Otherwise they will become direct targets and run the risk of being killed," the rebels warned.





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