Syrian general Munaf Tlass headed to Paris after defection: France
Munaf Tlass, a high-profile general close to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his family, is headed to Paris after defecting, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Friday.
"A senior official from the Syrian regime, a commander in the Republican Guard, has defected and is headed to Paris," Fabius told a Friends of Syria meeting of over 100 nations in Paris after reports of Tlass's defection.
General Tlass, who is in his late 40s, was a member of the inner circle of power in Syria, and a childhood friend of Bashar al-Assad. A general in the elite Republican Guard charged with protecting the regime, he is the son of former defence minister Mustafa Tlass, a close friend of Assad's late father and predecessor, Hafez.
The Sunni official's family is originally from the rebel-held town of Rastan, in the central province of Homs, which is currently besieged and being shelled by government forces.
Tlass was sidelined by the regime more than a year ago, after he was deemed unreliable.
His defection comes two weeks after a colonel in the privileged Syrian air force won political asylum after landing his MiG-21 fighter jet in neighbouring Jordan.
According to the source with close ties to Damascus, Tlass had embarked on several unsuccessful reconciliation missions between regime loyalists and rebels in Rastan and the southern province of Daraa.
Months later he gave up his military uniform and opted for civilian clothing. He set up residence in Damascus, where he let his beard and hair grow long.
Another source in Damascus told AFP that Tlass' relations with the authorities became irreconcilable after the regime's fierce assault on the Homs district of Baba Amr in February this year.
Tlass reportedly refused to lead the unit tasked with reclaiming the former rebel stronghold, and Assad subsequently told him to stay at home.
The source said Tlass was furious when Assad refused to promote him from the rank of brigadier general to divisional general or commander, when the yearly promotion list was published on July 1.
Sources close to Tlass say his family is now in Dubai, including his brother Firas, who is a businessman. When the uprising against Assad's regime broke out in March last year, the businessman wrote a blog post in support of the uprising.
Tlass' cousin Abdel Razzak defected from the military several months ago, and heads the elite Free Syrian Army's Farouk Battalion in Homs. "If his defection is confirmed, it will be a painful blow to the Syrian regime and its inner circle, because he is close to the ruling family," Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP.
The United States said on Tuesday that the growing number of defections showed that the support for the Assad regime was steadily crumbling. "There have been, as you know, countless defections," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
"We see this stream increasing, and we think it reflects not only the stress that Assad's military is under, but increasingly his officers and his rank and file are voting with their feet against his regime."
AFPTurkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rallies supporters after riot police again clash with thousands of anti-government demonstrators in a second week of nationwide unrest.Three people have died in the protests against Erdogan and his Islamic-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP), in power since 2002.Following are the main events of the past days:- May 28: A peaceful local protest
AFPTurkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is facing one of the biggest challenges of his decade in power with anti-government protests that critics say have exposed growing discontent with his increasingly authoritarian and conservative agenda.Here are the key events since Erdogan's Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) assumed power in the predominantly Muslim but staunchly
AHRAM ONLINEFounders of Egypt’s 'Rebel' campaign, a newly established movement that aims to withdraw confidence from President Mohamed Morsi by collecting citizens' signatures, spoke at an open forum on Wednesday to discuss the campaign, which has recently gone viral online and on the streets.'Rebel' campaigners hope to collect 15 million signatures and hold a mass sit-in on 30 June –
BBC SportWhen it's put to him that he might be the most talented athlete in the world to hold a racquet, a bashful Ramy Ashour admits "that's pretty great".The 25-year-old Egyptian is more than just the current squash world number one - his elastic, unorthodox brilliance and charisma could be the key to squash breaking out beyond its four walls and regaining a place on the wider sporting