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Syrian envoy to Iraq defects

Syrian envoy to Iraq defects

Damascus: Syria's ambassador to Iraq has defected to the opposition and called on politicians and the military to do the same.

"I announce that from this moment I abandon the Syrian regime and end my membership in the Baath party to go over to the opposition," said Nawaf Fares, the first senior diplomat to defect, in a video message broadcast by Al-Jazeera.

"I invite the military to go over to the part of the rebels and turn their cannons and tanks against those who killed our people," he was quoted as saying.

Fares said he abandoned President Bashar al-Assad's government Wednesday "after seeing the recent massacres carried out in Damascus".

Fares was appointed ambassador to Baghdad in 2008.

Syria Thursday said it fired Fares after he announced his defection, state-run news agency Sana reported.

Around 15,000 people have died in clashes that began soon after the start of anti-government protests in March 2011. The UN and opposition groups blame the government for most of the violence, while Assad attributes it to "terrorists".


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