PM welcomes Syria defection reports

 

Downing Street today welcomed reports that a Syrian minister has defected from the government of Bashar al-Assad and joined the rebels.

Deputy oil minister Abdo Husameddine announced in an online video that he was quitting the regime because of the “brutal” crackdown on dissent which has led to thousands of deaths over the past year.

He is the highest-ranking civilian figure to abandon President Assad's administration, following a stream of thousands of defections from the military to join the Free Syrian Army.

In the video posted on YouTube, Mr Husameddine identified himself as a member of the ruling Baath Party who has served in various government positions for 33 years and said he was now “joining the dignified people's revolution”.

And he addressed a message to Assad: “You have inflicted on those you claim are your people a full year of sorrow and sadness, denied them their basic rights to life and humanity and pushed the country to the edge of the abyss.

“I do not want to end my life servicing the crimes of this regime.”

Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman said: “If confirmed, this is an important moment.

“It would be the highest-ranking civilian defection so far and would follow a number of military defections recently.

“We have been very clear that we believe that regime has no legitimacy and we would urge others to step away from the regime and support the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.”

Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain was still continuing to work for a United Nations Security Council resolution based on an Arab League plan calling for Mr Assad to step down, paving the way for the transition to a new government.

Giving evidence to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, he said Russia and China were paying a “diplomatic price” throughout the Arab world for having used their vetoes to block a previous attempt to agree a resolution.

“If our view is correct that the Assad regime cannot recover its credibility internationally or internally after spilling so much blood and that one way or another it is doomed, then it is in the national interest of Russia and China to support a political transition at some stage,” he said.

Mr Hague said Britain was continuing to supply “non-lethal” assistance - such as communications equipment - to opposition groups outside Syria.

However, the Government had so far not provided support to groups inside the country - in part because of concerns that it could fall into the hands of al Qaida which is now reported to be operating in Syria.

“That is a consideration in trying to provide practical assistance,” he said. “That is one of the constraints upon us.”

He also played down the prospect of opening up international humanitarian aid corridors into Syria, saying it would require “overwhelming military force” unless the Syrian government was prepared to allow access, which it has so far refused.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there