Reports: Syrian Ambassador to Iraq Defects

Posted on: July 11, 2012 at 23:51
Syria's ambassador to Iraq, Nawaf al-Fares, has defected from the Syrian government, two opposition Syrian National Council members told CNN Wednesday.

Al-Fares is the highest-ranking diplomat to defect since the uprising against the al-Assad regime began last year.

A high-ranking general in the elite Republican Guard, Manaf Tlass, a friend of President Bashar Assad and the son of a former defense minister, fled Syria last Thursday.

The defection of the diplomat was first reported by Al-Jazeera in an unsourced dispatch.

Burhan Ghalioun, a member of executive bureau and former leader of the opposition Syrian National Council corroborated the report on the sidelines of a news conference in Moscow, where a council delegation was talking to Foreign Ministry officials about the Syrian conflict.

''We welcome the defection of the Syrian ambassador to Iraq,'' Ghalioun said. ''We have called upon high ranking officials whether in the military or in the diplomatic service to defect from this regime and join the revolution of dignity,'' he added.

Later on Wednesday, an Arab diplomat in Baghdad confirmed the defection to Agence France Presse.

''He submitted a letter to the Iraqi MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs),'' the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

''They (Iraqi officials) will have a meeting tomorrow (Thursday). They are going to discuss sending him to another country.''

The United States said it could not confirm Fares' defection, but White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters: ''There have been a number of high-level defections in recent days and weeks, and they are simply the tip of the iceberg.''

''There have been many, many defections within the military leadership, within the government, and I think that is an indication of the fact that support for Assad is crumbling, internationally and internally. And that's a welcome development.''

Source:Naharnet Agence France Presse
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