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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Syrian PM Defects to Join Opposition

RIA Novosti

15:09 06/08/2012 MOSCOW, August 6 (RIA Novosti) - Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab emerged in Jordan on Monday, saying he had defected from the Assad regime in Damascus and joined the opposition, his spokesman Muhammad el-Etri told Al Jazeera on Monday.

"I announce today my defection from the killing and terrorist regime and I announce that I have joined the ranks of the freedom and dignity revolution. I announce that I am from today a soldier in this blessed revolution," el-Etri quoted Hijab as saying in a statement to Al Jazeera.

The Syrian Premier was sacked after Assad’s officials learned he had left the country, although Syrian state TV did not say why he had been fired. Omar Ghalawanji, Syrian deputy prime minister, has been named as acting premier, state TV reported.

Hijab, who said he had been planning his defection "for months", was appointed to the country’s second most important post in late June, after parliamentary elections which were slammed by the opposition as illegitimate, his spokesman told Al Jazeera.

The premier’s escape from Syria was assisted by the opposition Syrian Free Army, el-Etri said.

Earlier on Sunday, Al Arabiya reported that senior Syrian intelligence officer Colonel Yarub Shara, who was in charge of suppressing anti-government protests in Damascus, had also defected to Jordan.

Over 150,000 Syrian refugees have escaped to Jordan since the beginning of the popular uprising against Assad in March 2011, according to the UN estimates.

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