Senior Syrian bureaucrat defects to opposition

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Thursday, March 8, 2012

Abdo Hussameldin, a senior assistant to Syria's Oil Minister has announced his defection on YouTube, becoming the first high ranking civilian official to abandon President Bashar Assad since the uprising against his rule erupted a year ago.

"I Abdo Hussameldin, a deputy oil and mineral wealth minister in Syria, announce my defection from the regime, resignation from my position, and withdrawal from the Baath Party. I join the revolution of this dignified people," Hussameldin said in a YouTube video uploaded on Wednesday and seen early on Thursday.

"I say to this regime: you have inflicted on those who you claim are your people a whole year of sorrow and sadness, denying them basic life and humanity and driving Syria to the edge of the abyss," he said, adding the country's economy was "near collapse."

The authenticity of the video, which was taken at an undisclosed location, could not be immediately confirmed.

Assad appointed Hussameldin, 58, to his position through a presidential decree in 2009.

"I have been in government for 33 years. I did not want to end my career serving the crimes of this regime. I have preferred to do what is right although I know that this regime will burn my house and persecute my family," he said.

Syria's government and public service has not witnessed the large scale defections seen in Libya following mass protests against Muammar Gaddafi.

Thousands of soldiers are said to have deserted since the uprising broke out last March, but the bulk of the army remains intact and under Assad's control.

In late August, Mohammad al-Bakkour, the attorney general of the province of Hama declared on YouTube he had resigned in protest against the suppression of street demonstrations and the storming of the city of Hama by tanks.

Bakkour has not been heard from since and some opposition sources say the video was made under pressure from rebels.

News of the ministerial resignation came hours after US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Washington was looking at delivering non-lethal aid to Syria's rebels, hinting at the first direct US assistance to forces seeking Assad's downfall.

(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)


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