Rebel spokesman: Syrian vice president defects; regime doesn't confirm
NN) -- Conflicting reports emerged Saturday about whether Syria's vice president has defected.
A spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army said Saturday that Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa has left the regime.
Syrian state-run TV did not explicitly say whether al-Sharaa had defected, but reported that the vice president's office issued a statement saying al-Sharaa "didn't think for one second to leave the homeland."
If al-Sharaa did defect, it would mark the highest-level departure from President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
"Farouq al-Sharaa did defect, but we were trying to get him through to Jordan," FSA spokesman Louai Miqdad told CNN.
"We lost communications with our commanders in Daraa who were trying to get him to cross the borders to Jordan.
We are extremely worried that the regime managed to detain some of his family members forcing al-Sharaa to surrender. We are trying to get him to a safe house with his family, and we will issue a press release once we get hold of our commanders on the ground who are handling this operation."
1. Syria denies vice president has defected, but whereabouts unknown
BEIRUT -– Syria denied Saturday that Vice President Farouk Shara had defected as opposition reports continued to provide conflicting accounts of whether he had fled to neighboring Jordan or was still in the country.
The Syrian Arab News Agency reported that Shara has been working with all sides to end the bloodshed in the 17-month conflict in Syria. In the release, Shara also welcomed Friday’s appointment of Lakhdar Brahimi as the new United Nations envoy to Syria.
However, a spokesman with the rebel Free Syrian Army said Friday that Shara had left the country. Meanwhile, an official with the opposition Syrian National Council told Al Arabiya news channel that Shara had planned to defect and leave the country but that he was being held under house arrest.
If true, the defection would be the biggest blow yet to the government of President Bashar Assad and the latest in a series of defections that have raised questions about how long his government can last. Last week, Prime Minister Riyad Hijab fled to Jordan with his family and has said the government controls only 30% of the country.
But few seem sure of where exactly Shara is.
A spokesman with the Syrian National Council’s media bureau said it did not know Shara’s whereabouts with certainty but was working on confirming the news of his defection.