Syrian government spokesman defects to London, according to reports
Syrian government spokesman, Jihad Makdissi
The spokesman for the Syrian government has defected from the regime, leaving Beirut to settle in London, diplomatic sources said on Monday.
In the past, Jihad Makdissi – a member of Syria’s Christian minority – has staunchly defended Assad’s crackdown on the country’s revolt.
However, on Monday an unnamed source told Reuters: "He defected. All I can say is that he is out of Syria."
Lebanon’s al-Manar television station put out counter claims on the same day that Makdissi had been fired for making statements that didn’t reflect the state line.
Makdissi’s role had reportedly been scaled back since he made comments in July, inadvertently relating to Syria’s possession of chemical weapons.
The Syrian spokesman’s reported defection has coincided with a public address from US president, Barak Obama, warning Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, against using chemical weapons.
"Today I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command: The world is watching," Obama said on Monday.
"The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable and if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons there will be consequences and you will be held accountable," he warned.
Al Jazeera reported that, according to a number of sources, including Wael Mezra, Syrian National Coalition presidential advisor, Makdissi has now arrived in London.
There has been no official confirmation on Makdissi’s status from Syrian or British officials. However, the Syrian army reportedly burned down Makdissi's house today in an act of revenge.