DUBAI, United Arab Emirates—The wave of defections from the embattled Syrian regime is accelerating, with the defection of two senior diplomats and the possibility of further defections in the weeks to come.
Abdel Latif al-Dabbagh, the Syrian ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, and his wife Lamia Hariri, Syria’s chargé d’affaires in Cyprus, both fled to Qatar, the U.S. government confirmed.
The defections come amid mounting pressure on the government of President Bashar Assad.
“Senior officials around the Assad inner circle are fleeing the government because of the heinous actions taken by Assad against his own people, and the recognition that Assad’s days are numbered,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
The defections come after the Syrian ambassador to Iraq, Nawaf Fares, fled to Qatar two weeks ago.
Al-Dabbagh was in Cyprus at the time his wife announced her defection. He had however also been planning his defection for some time.
“We have been in contact over the last period with him, setting up the right time for the announcement,” said Shadi Al Khesh, a Syria National Council member in the UAE, in comments to Abu Dhabi-based daily The National.
The newspaper also confirmed that more defections would be announced within the week, quoting Ghassan Aboud, a Syrian National Council member in Berlin.
Manaf Tlass, a former high-ranking general in Syria’s Republican Guard, earlier this week called for a “free and democratic Syria” in a statement broadcast on Al-Arabiya TV. He is believed to have sought asylum in France after defecting earlier in July.
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