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Former Syrian PM: Assad Only Controls 30% of Syria

Former Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab, who defected last week, says the Assad’s regime now controls only 30 percent of the country.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 8/15/2012, 5:42 AM

Defected Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab speaks during a news conference in Amman
Defected Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab speaks during a news conference in Amman
Reuters

Former Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab, who crossed into Jordan after defecting last week, said on Tuesday that President Bashar al-Assad’s regime now controls only 30 percent of the country.

“Oh devoted revolutionaries, your revolution has become a model of effort and sacrifice for the sake of freedom and dignity,” Hijab was quoted by Al-Arabiya as having said during a news conference. “I assure you, from my experience and former position, that the regime is collapsing, spiritually and financially, as it escalates militarily.”

“It no longer controls more than 30 percent of Syrian territory... So let the shining revolution be completed by preserving the unity of the country,” he added.

Hijab said he had made his decision to quit his post on August 5 “after losing hope that this corrupt and brutal regime would change.”

He added, “I have no interest in holding any position, now or in the future following the liberation of Syria.”

Hijab urged Syria’s rebels to “continue their fight against the regime as the Syrian people have high hopes and faith in you.”

“I also call on the Syrian armed forces not to point their guns at the Syrian people,” he said.

Meanwhile, Al-Arabiya reported, the United States lifted sanctions against Hijab, saying he was no longer a senior official of the Syrian regime.

In a move aimed at convincing members of Assad’s inner circle that they have not been permanently blacklisted, the U.S. Treasury Department unfroze Hijab’s assets, saying in a statement, “This action is being taken because Hijab is no longer a senior official of the Government of Syria.”

“The United States encourages other officials within the Syrian government, in both the political and military ranks, to take similarly courageous steps to reject the Assad regime and stand with the Syrian people,” Treasury official David Cohen was quoted by Al-Arabiya as having said.

Hijab's defection was one of the most high profile desertions from Assad's political and military circles.

After his defection was reported, the Syrian regime immediately announced that he was fired, two months after he was appointed. Hijab confirmed during the news conference in Amman that he resigned and defected to the opposition.

“It is my duty to wash my hands of this corrupt regime,” he said.

On Monday, foreign ministers at a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) agreed to suspend Syria from the international body, further isolating Assad. The move by the OIC, a body comprising 56 member states and the Palestinian Authority and which aims to represent Muslim interests on the world stage, is its response to Assad's suppression of a 17-month uprising.

The decision came on the same day that Syria's Geneva-based UN human rights envoy Danny Al-Baaj announced he was defecting to the opposition.

Al-Baaj, the third secretary in the Syrian delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Council and its highest diplomat in the group to defect, announced to reporters that he felt he could no longer do anything more for his nation.