Defecting PM: Assad regime nearing collapse

Published August 14th, 2012 - 11:47 GMT
Riad Hijab
Riad Hijab

Clashes and shelling were reported Tuesday by the Syrian opposition in Aleppo in the region of Idlib (northwest), in the province of Daraa (south) and in some suburbs of Damascus. Meanwhile, the former prime minister assured that the Assad regime was near collapse and urged political and military figures to defect like him.

"The regime is on the verge of collapse morally and economically," said Riad Hijab during a press conference in Amman, speaking for the first time in public since he fled to Jordan with his family last week. According to his spokesman, Mohammad Otari, he had accepted the post of prime minister on June 23 under the threat of death.

As the top official of the regime to have defected so far, Riad Hijab said he was "powerless to stop injustice." He called the "honorable leaders" of his country to follow suit and "the army to follow the example of the armies of Egypt and Tunisia in siding with the people." He noted that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad does not control more than 30% of Syria.

As he spoke, Buthaina Shaaban, a political adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, went to Beijing to meet Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. The spokesman of the Ministry, Qin Gang, said his country was considering inviting also Syrian opposition figures.

China and Russia are strongly criticized by Europe and the United States for having vetoed the resolutions of the UN Security Council that could open the way for tougher sanctions against Syria.

Beijing hopes that the Assad government and the opposition find a political solution to end the civil war.

Moreover, Lebanon's Hizbullah denied "categorically" in a statement published Tuesday that one of its members was captured by rebels in Damascus. In a video provided by the rebels and broadcast by the pan-Arab Al-Arabiya television Tuesday, the prisoner gave his name as Hassan Salim al-Mikdad. He said he is a sniper part of 1,500 Hizbullah fighters, sent to Syria on August 3. He added that the Lebanese Shiite movement's leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah told the men before their departure to "support the Shiite regime and the army in Syria against Sunni gangs".

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