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Key Syrian Defector Hints that France Helped Him

Key Syrian defector General Manaf Tlas hints that French secret agents helped him flee Syria, won't explain how.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 9/11/2012, 4:43 AM

Syrian President Bashar Assad
Syrian President Bashar Assad
Flash 90

Key Syrian defector General Manaf Tlas hinted on Monday that French secret agents helped him flee Syria in early July, the BBC reported.

Speaking from his refuge in Paris to interviewers from BBC Arabic and French news channel BFMTV, Tlaf said French “services” had helped him escape but refused to be drawn on how, only thanking the French government.

He warned that if the Damascus regime was subjected to more pressure, it could resort to using chemical weapons.

Tlas would not specify exactly which French organization had assisted his escape, saying he feared he could endanger those who had helped him.

He warned that Syria is at a “dangerous crossroads” and urged the international community to “focus all its efforts to draft a real road map to get Syria out of this crisis.”

He added, however, that he is “of course against foreign intervention of any shape or form in Syria,” saying the Syrian people had to “achieve their own victory” and the international community could only help by “putting a new strategy for the revolution.”

Tlas suggested that his “defection” from the government had begun long before he physically fled his country.

“On the third month of the revolution, I defected from the regime,” he said. “I met demonstrators and rebels, listened to their demands and felt that the regime is not willing to change.

“I felt that the regime was lying to the rebels and was searching for shortcuts. I withdrew to my office, did not listen to anyone and decided to defect and help the rebels.”

Tlas said many of the rebels he had met had been “imprisoned, murdered or tortured as a result of making real humanitarian demands.”

He said he urged his former friend, President Bashar al-Assad, to give up power not just for Syria's sake, but for that of his family.

Tlas was a leading member of Assad's inner circle. A member of the most powerful Sunni family in Syria, he is the son of a long-serving former defense minister, Mustafa Tlas.

Several other key members of Assad’s regime have defected, including his prime minister who fled to Jordan in August.

The White House said last month that the defections showed that President Bashar al-Assad's government was “crumbling from within”.