Syria's highest ranking diplomat to defect to the opposition dismissed on Thursday the main international plan seeking to stop the violence, saying that nothing short of President Bashar Assad's ouster is acceptable.
The Associated Press quoted Nawaf Fares, formerly Syria's ambassador to Iraq, as having said only force can remove Assad.
“There is no roadmap ever with Bashar Assad, because he delays and ignores any plan, any statement that is agreed on internationally,” Fares was quoted as having said in an interview with Al-Jazeera. “There is no way that he can be pushed from power without force and the Syrian people realize this.”
Fares defected from Assad’s regime on Wednesday, submitting a letter of resignation to the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Syria's Foreign Ministry said Thursday that Fares should be punished. In a statement reported by Syria's state news agency, the ministry said Fares had been “relieved of his duties” and should face “legal and disciplinary accountability.”
In Paris, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Fares quit while outside of Iraq.
Fares condemned Assad's regime in a statement broadcast on Al-Jazeera, saying, “Where is the honor in killing your countrymen? Where is the national allegiance? The nation is all the people, not one person in particular. The allegiance is to the people, not to a dictator who kills his people.”
AP noted that it was unclear where Fares recorded the statement. His current whereabouts remain unknown.
Fares was the second prominent figure to leave the regime in a week, suggesting some cracks in Assad's regime are appearing at senior levels. Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass, an Assad confidant and son of a former defense minister, fled Syria last week, but has not spoken publicly.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Tlass has been in contact with the Syrian opposition. He would not comment on reports that Tlass was in Paris.
Opposition leaders and Western officials said they hoped the defections would encourage others to leave, too.
Appointed to the Baghdad post four years ago, Fares was the first Syrian ambassador to Iraq in 26 years. Like Tlass, he is a member of the privileged Sunni elite in a regime dominated by Assad's minority Alawite sect.
Meanwhile, opposition groups in Syria said that Assad’s troops massacred anywhere from 100 to 200 people in the central province of Hama on Thursday.