Syrian PM Riad Hijab quits and flees country


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The Independent Online

Syria's prime minister has defected to Jordan with his family after less than two months in the post.

Riad Hijab was joined by three other cabinet ministers, according to Syrian rebel sources.

They are the first cabinet ministers to defect, underlining the cracks in Bashar Assad's regime, which is now reaching beyond the military ranks.

Syrian state-run TV said that Mr Hijab was fired from his post.

He is a former agriculture minister and a loyalist in Assad's ruling Baath party.

A Jordanian government official confirmed Mr Hijab had defected but did not comment on the three other ministers.

Mohammad Otari, a spokesman for Mr Hijab, said: "Don't be scared. Defect from this criminal regime" on Al-Jazeera TV, as he urged other Syrians to join the defecting ministers.

He said Mr Hijab is now a "soldier" of the revolution and added that his defection was planned for more than two months. He said the minister was now in a safe place, adding that he took the job two months ago because the regime gave him a choice: Be killed or accept the post.