Syrian prime minister 'defects' after two months
Published Monday, August 6, 2012
Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab defected to Jordan on Monday, only two months after being appointed to the job, an aide said.
Spokesperson Mohammad Otri said Hijab had arrived in the Jordanian capital Amman along with ten families after the Free Syrian Army (FSA) facilitated their safe passage out of Damascus.
In a statement broadcast on al-Jazeera, Otri said Hijab had been working with the FSA to plan the defection since becoming prime minister in June.
"I announce today my defection from the killing and terrorist regime and I announce that I have joined the ranks of the freedom and dignity revolution," Hijab said in a statement read in his name by the spokesman.
"I announce that I am from today a soldier in this blessed revolution," it added.
Otri later told AFP Hijab would head to Qatar in the coming days.
"Hijab will go to Doha, where international media are based. He will leave for Qatar tomorrow, the day after or after a few days," he said.
However a Jordanian minister officially denied Hijab ever entered the country.
Information Minister Samih Maaytah told the official Petra news agency: "Hijab has not entered Jordanian territories until now."
Otri told al-Jazeera that Hijab had been supportive of the uprising since the beginning, but could not express his support after being appointed prime minister in June.
"He has been on the side of this blessed revolution since its beginning but this criminal government granted Hijab the post of prime minister," he said.
"At the time, Hijab had no choice but to accept the post," he added, without elaborating on Hijab's stance during the first 12 months of the uprising, when he was not prime minister.
Syrian state TV said he had been sacked from his post with immediate effect.
"Prime Minister Riad Hijab has been dismissed," the station reported.
Gulf Arab states are said to be stepping up their campaign to bribe primarily Sunni Muslim elements of President Bashar al-Assad's regime in order to pressure Assad to resign.
Hijab is the first cabinet minister to defect, but follows a series of senior defections from the regime in recent months.
Last month, general and long-time friend of Assad, Manaf Tlass, defected and is currently in Saudi Arabia.
At least three Syrian envoys have also abandoned their positions, with many heading to the Qatari capital Doha.
Hijab was appointed to the role by President Bashar al-Assad, following a stint as the country's agriculture minister.
He hails from the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, which has been one of the key flashpoints in the revolt against the Assad regime.
State television announced that Omar al-Ghalawanji had been appointed to head the government temporarily.
Ghalawanji was serving as deputy prime minister, having previously headed up the ministry for housing and construction.
(Al-Akhbar, AFP, Reuters, AP)