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Syrian army general defection hits President Assad

  • A Syrian general close to President Bashar al-Assad has defected, dealing "a hard blow for the regime", according to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

    Brig Gen Manaf Tlas fled Syria via Turkey, his family confirmed.

    His departure is highest-level defection since the unrest began in March 2011.

    Tlas is a commander of a unit of the elite Republican Guard attended military training with Assad.

    The news emerged following a Friends of Syria meeting in Paris, where U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of "insiders voting with their feet".