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Syria prime Minister,Riyad Hijab defects to anti-Assad opposition.

By Delords - Monday, August 6, 2012

Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab has defected to the opposition seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, a spokesman for Hijab said on Monday,. Conflicting reports from Syrian state television claim Hijab was "dismissed" as he was about to announce his support for Syria's anti-Assad opposition.

In a statement read out by Mohammad Otari, who identified himself as Hijab's spokesman, on Al Jazeera television said: "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."

If confirmed, Mr Hajib's defection to the rebels would be highest-ranking defection of the 17-month uprising. Hijab, a Sunni Muslim from Deir al-Zour, may have been influenced by rising anti-regime sentiment in his home area, near the border with Iraq. Nawwaf al-Fares, Syria's ambassador to Iraq and the most senior diplomat to defect, is also from there. Like the defection of Manaf Tlass, a brigadier general in the elite Republican Guard, Hijab's move will trigger speculation about others who may follow and the effect on the regime.

President Bashar al Assad appointed the former agriculture minister as his PM in June, following elections in May.

Ahmad Kassim, a senior official with the Free Syrian Army, told The Associated Press that Hijab defected to Jordan along with three other ministers. "Don't be scared. Defect from this criminal regime," Otari said in the televised statement, urging other Syrians to join the defecting ministers.

Otari denied that his boss had been fired, and added that the defection was planned "for months" and was executed in conjunction with the Free Syrian Army, the main armed opposition group in Syria. Riyad Hijab has been reported to have fled to Jordan but that is yet to be confirmed by the Jordanian Officials.

Earlier in the day, a bomb blast hit the Damascus headquarters of Syria's state broadcaster as troops backed by fighter jets kept up an offensive against the last rebel bastion in the capital. The bomb exploded on the third floor of the state television and radio building, state TV said. However, while the rebels may have struck a symbolic blow in their 17-month-old uprising against Assad, Information Minister Omran Zoabi said none of the injuries was serious, and state TV continued broadcasting.

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