Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Syrian Leader Discussed Transition, U.N. Envoy Says Assad Huddle Short on Specifics; Another Syria Aide Defects

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Syrian Leader Discussed Transition, U.N. Envoy Says Assad Huddle Short on Specifics; Another Syria Aide Defects

Article excerpt

GENEVA -- Syrian President Bashar Assad has discussed the possibility of forming a transitional government for his country, as proposed by an international conference in Geneva last month, envoy Kofi Annan said Wednesday.

Mr. Annan, the U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, said that during his discussions in Damascus this week with Mr. Assad, the Syrian leader proposed someone who could serve as an interlocutor for the regime as it explores ways of forming a transitional government with the opposition.

Mr. Annan spoke to reporters in Geneva after a private videoconference session with the U.N. Security Council in New York City. He did not identify the person whose name Mr. Assad put forward, but said: "He did offer a name, and I indicated that I wanted to know a bit more about that individual. So we are at that stage."

Meanwhile, the Syrian ambassador to Iraq announced his defection Wednesday, denouncing Mr. Assad in a TV statement and becoming the most senior diplomat to abandon the regime to date.

Nawaf Fares, a former provincial governor, is the second prominent Syrian to break with the regime in less than a week. Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass, an Assad confidant and son of a former defense minister, fled Syria last week. There have been thousands of prior defections, mostly low-level army conscripts, but until now, no one as senior as the general and the ambassador has fled.

In a statement broadcast on the Arabic satellite channel Al- Jazeera, Mr. Fares said he was resigning and joining the opposition. "I'm announcing from this moment on that I'm siding with the revolution in Syria," he said, according to Al-Jazeera's English translation. He urged all Syrians to abandon Mr. Assad.

"Where is the honor in killing your countrymen? Where is the national allegiance? The nation is all the people, not one person in particular," he said. "The allegiance is to the people, not to a dictator who kills his people."

Appointed to the Baghdad post four years ago, Mr. Fares was the first Syrian ambassador to Iraq in 26 years. Like Gen. Tlass, he is a member of the privileged Sunni elite in a regime dominated by Mr. Assad's minority Alawite sect. …

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