SYRIAN DEPUTY OIL MINISTER DEFECTS

Fox News on March 8, 2012, published an AP report Syria’s deputy oil minister announcing his defection in an online video making him the highest ranking official to abandon President Bashar Assad’s regime since the country’s uprising erupted a year ago. Excerpts below:

Abdo Husameddine said he was defecting because of the “brutal” crackdown on dissent which has claimed the life of thousands of Syrians in the past year.

There has been a steady stream of army defections who have joined a group of dissidents known as the Free Syrian Army, now numbering in the thousands, but civilian government officials have remained largely loyal to Assad’s regime.

In the video posted on YouTube, Husameddine identified himself as an “assistant” to the oil minister and a member of the ruling Baath Party.

“I, Abdo Husameddine, deputy oil and mineral resources minister, announce my defection from the regime and resignation from my post … and declare that I am joining the dignified people’s revolution,” he said.

The defector said:

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

“I do not want to end my life servicing the crimes of this regime,” said Husameddine, adding that has served 33 years in various government positions.

There have been numerous military defections recently, including Syrian brigadier-general Mostafa Ahmad al-Sheik who fled to Turkey in January, becoming the highest-ranking officer to defect.

In late August, Adnan Bakkour, the attorney general of the central city of Hama, appeared in a video announcing he had defected from the regime.

Authorities reported he had been kidnapped and said he was being kept against his will by gunmen. He has not been heard of since.

“I advise my colleagues … to abandon this sinking ship,” he added.

The defection comes following a monthlong assault by government forces on the rebellious district of Baba Amr in the central city of Homs that brought international condemnation. A key stronghold of the uprising against Assad, it was wrested from rebel control on March 1. Activists accused the government of trying to cover up evidence of atrocities there.

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