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Syrian Prime Minister Defects As Blast Hits TV-Radio Building

August 06, 2012


Syria's state-run TV says the country's prime minister has been fired after reports that Riyad Hijab has defected to Jordan.

Unnamed Jordanian officials have confirmed that Hijab defected to Jordan with his family. Hijab, a former agriculture minister, was appointed as prime minister on June 23.

He is considered the most senior defector so far. Hijab is the first cabinet minister to defect, underlining the cracks in President Bashar al-Assad's regime, which is now reaching beyond the military ranks.

Mohammed al-Atri, a spokesman for Hijab, told Al-Jazeera television from Jordan that the former prime minister was joining the rebels in protest at the "genocide" committed by Assad's forces.

"I [Hijab] announce today my defection from the murderous and terrorist regime, and I announce that I have joined the ranks of the revolution for freedom and dignity. I announce that from today I am a soldier in this blessed revolution," his statement read.

Hijab said his defection came at a time "when Syria is passing through the most difficult war crimes, genocide, and barbaric killings and massacres against unarmed citizens."

Atri said the prime minister was in a "safe haven" with his family and that the defection was organized by the Free Syrian Army.

The leader of the opposition Syrian National Council, Abdel Basset Sayda, said the defection of Hijab showed Assad's regime is "disintegrating."

Sayda told AFP: "We welcome the defection of Riyad Hijab and those of all the other civilian and military officials."

Bomb Attack On State TV

The news of the defection came as a bomb ripped through the third floor of the state TV building in Damascus on August 6, shattering several offices and wounding at least three employees, Syrian TV said.

Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi blamed foreign media for inciting attacks against Syria's state media.

"The guilty, in the political sense, are in Doha, Tel Aviv, Ankara, and Riyadh. They know who they are," Zoubi said.

"They know they have issued these nonsecret orders in the Doha meeting of the Arab foreign ministers. They talked about shutting down the voice of the Syrian media. This order is being carried out in more than one phase."

The explosion was the latest in the Syrian capital, which has seen a string of suicide attacks and other bombings in the past few months as the country's civil war has escalated and the rebels grow bolder in their tactics.

Meanwhile, reports said that Syrian regime forces shelled several areas of the northern city of Aleppo on August 6, and shooting was also reported in other neighborhoods of Syria's largest city.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and Al-Jazeera


Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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