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A Syrian boy sits atop a damaged tank in Azaz, 32km from Aleppo. AP Photo/Turkpix/PA
Syria

Syrian ambassador defections confirmed by US

White House also said it considers reports the Syrian government is using planes in its assault on Aleppo as “credible”.

OBAMA’S ADMINISTRATION has confirmed the defection of two more Syrian officials – the ambassadors to the UAE and to Cyprus.

The Syrian ambassador to Iraq became the first senior government official to defect when he joined the rebellion earlier this month.

Speaking to reporters on board Air Force One yesterday, White House spokesperson Jay Carney said the US continues to condemn violence against civilians in Syria, particularly noting the “ongoing assault in Aleppo…which is a civilian population”.

He said that although the US did not have independent verification of reports that the Syrian government forces are using planes as well as helicopters and tanks in the Aleppo assault, it considers those reports “credible”.

Carney also said that the defections of the two ambassadors is being seen by the US as an indication that officials in Assad’s inner circle consider the Syrian president’s days as “numbered”.

The White House official also reaffirmed US concern over “the disposition of the Assad regime’s chemical weapons” following recent comments made by Syria’s foreign ministry spokesman:

We believe that they are still under the control of the government, and we use every opportunity to remind the Syrian government that it must maintain control of those weapons and, of course, never use them.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has already said it “would be reprehensible if anybody in Syria is contemplating use of such weapons of mass destruction”.

Joining the fight

The AFP reports that Syrian rebels in the north-west of the country are being supported by foreign Islamist fighters who are joining the fight in support of overthrowing the minority Alawite sect (an off-shoot of Shiite Islam) to which Assad’s family belongs.

The Syrian regime has claimed that rebels were being supported by al-Qaida fighters since the start of the uprising.

It is unclear how many foreign jihadist fighters have joined the conflict, the AFP adds.

- Additional reporting by AFP

Syria: defections, Turkish roadblocks and a Russian outburst >

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