General’s defection delivers ‘hard blow’ to Assad regime


The government of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad suffered a ‘hard blow’ on Thursday, when a general from one of the country’s most famous families defected, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.

Brig.-Gen. Manaf Tlas, a senior commander in the Republican Guard and son of a former minister of defence, was a close personal friend of the Syrian dictator. His defection to Turkey, and subsequently France, suggests that some in Assad’s inner circle think his days in power are numbered.

Meanwhile, in Paris, the “Friends of Syria,” a group of forgien ministers and diplomats from over 100 countries, were calling for global sanctions against the Assad regime. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called upon other nations to pressure Russia and China to force Assad to step down.

“I will tell you very frankly, I don’t think Russia and China believe they are paying any price at all–nothing at all–for standing up on behalf of the Assad regime,” Clinton told the group. “The only way that will change is if every nation represented here directly and urgently makes it clear that Russia and China will pay a price, because they are holding up progress–blockading it. That is no longer tolerable.”

While there are no official estimate of the number of casualties in Syria, activists say more than 14,000 people have been killed since the revolt began in the spring of 2011.

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