Syrian state TV denies vice president defection

Media claims Farouq al-Shara "never considered" defection from Assad; Syrian opposition insists reports of defection are genuine.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS
August 18, 2012 13:46
1 minute read.
Syria's Vice President Al-Shara in Iran

Syrian VP Al-Shara (R370). (photo credit: REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi)

 
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Syria's Vice-President Farouq al-Shara has never considered leaving the country, state media said on Saturday, after reports that Shara had tried to defect to neighboring Jordan.

A cousin of Shara's announced his defection on Thursday, calling on the army to join the "revolution" against Assad.

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But state media said the vice president had been working since the start of the uprising to reach a political solution to end the bloodshed. Shara welcomed the appointment of veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi as a new international mediator for Syria, it added.

"Farouq al-Shara has never thought for a moment about leaving the country," Syrian television quoted a statement from Shara's office as saying.

Shara, appointed six years ago after the defection of Abdul-Halim Khaddam, is a Sunni Muslim from the southern Deraa province where the 17-month-old uprising against Alawite President Bashar Assad first erupted.

The 73-year-old former foreign minister kept a low profile as the rebellion against Assad escalated, but appeared in public last month at a state funeral for three of Assad's top security officials killed in a bomb attack in Damascus.

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However, a spokesman for the Higher Revolutionary Council of the Free Syrian Army, Luay al-Miqdad, claimed Shara's arrival in Jordan in an interview Friday with Arabic news site Al-Arabiya. Miqdad told Al Arabiya that two other high-ranking officers also defected, but did not give any names.

Sources from the Syrian opposition said that Sharie has been missing for the past two days and that he did not announce his “explicit” defection until after he arrived in Jordan.

A Syria opposition official insisted Saturday that reports of the defection are genuine, and said he was being held under house arrest by the Syrian regime.

According to Al Arabiya, a Syrian National Council (SNC) official said that the Syrian TV statement that “Sharie never thought of leaving the country” was incorrect.

Meanwhile, cousin of the vice president, Ya’rub al-Sharie, appeared in a video on Thursday announcing his official defection and joining the ranks of the Syrian revolution.

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