Syria PM's defection deals sharp blow to Assad regime

  • Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab has defected from President Bashar al-Assad's government to join "the revolution", according to his spokesman.

    Hijab was appointed less than two months ago. His departure is the highest-profile defection since the uprising began in March 2011.

    Early reports suggested Hijab had defected to Jordan, though Jordanian state TV later denied this.

    On Monday afternoon, following his announcement, Hijab's whereabouts were still unknown.

    Western powers say his defection comes as a sign that the Assad regime is crumbling.

    The White House said the momentum was now with the opposition, while France stated Assad’s government was "doomed".

    Last month, Syria's ambassador to Iraq, Nawaf Fares, joined the opposition, while Brig Gen Manaf Tlas, considered close to Assad, defected in July.