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Middle East

Assad's fall is 'only a matter of time', says UN general

The former head of the UN observer mission in Syria said yesterday it was "only a matter of time" until President Assad's regime fell, as the international community warned of an impending massacre in Aleppo.

Maj-Gen Robert Mood, who resigned earlier this month, told Reuters: "In my opinion it is only a matter of time before a regime that is using such heavy military power and disproportionate violence against the civilian population is going to fall." He warned, however, that this may not end the conflict.

Navi Pillay, the UN human rights envoy, said that reports of a build-up of forces on Aleppo's outskirts "bodes ill" for the merchant city, where the opposition now claims to be in control of nearly half its neighbourhoods. A pro-government newspaper Al Watan said the "mother of all battles" was on its way, claiming that the fight for Aleppo would be the last.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, called the escalation "utterly unacceptable".

As the city braced for the onslaught, it emerged that the MP for the province of Aleppo had become the first parliamentarian to defect. Ikhlas al-Badawi, who was elected to the assembly in May, said she had defected from the "tyrannical regime" and crossed to Turkey because of the "repression and savage torture against a nation demanding the minimum of rights".