Syrian state television reported that the office of Vice President Faruq al-Shara denied reports he had defected and left the country as rebels continued to clash with the army to end President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Shara “never thought one moment of leaving the country,” Syrian Television reported, citing a statement from his office. The vice president is working with all sides to end the bloodshed and achieve “national reconciliation that would protect Syria’s unity and national independence away from foreign military intervention,” the broadcaster said.
Dubai-based Al Arabiya television earlier reported that Shara had defected to neighboring Jordan. Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab defected earlier this month to Jordan amid fighting that started 17 months ago. Hijab and Shara, like many of the rebels are Sunni Muslims, while the Assad regime is dominated by members of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Sameeh Maayteh, Jordan’s minister of state for media affairs and communications, declined to comment on the alleged defection. “When there is something to say on this, we will say it,” he said by phone from Amman.
Fighting continued yesterday between government forces and rebels in Damascus suburbs, near a military airport in the northern city of Aleppo, in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor and in the central Homs province, according to e-mailed statements from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The bodies of dozens of men from 30 to 40 years were discovered in the al-Tal region, near Damascus, that was attacked by government troops last week, the group said.
Syrian security forces killed 172 people yesterday, CNN reported, citing the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria. A total of 23,337 people have been killed, including 16,384 civilians, since the unrest erupted last year, the Syrian Observatory said on its website.
Shara welcomed the United Nation’s announcement last week that veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi has replaced Kofi Annan as the Joint Special Representative for Syria, state television said. A United Nations-arranged cease-fire agreed in April has failed to halt fighting.
The Obama administration is reviewing the possibility of a no-fly zone to protect Syrian civilians from air attacks, White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan said on Aug. 8. The president of the opposition Syrian National Council, Abdelbaset Sieda, called on Aug. 12 for the creation of a no-fly zone in border areas.
Russia is against imposing a no-fly zone in Syria, as it will be a violation of its sovereignty, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview aired yesterday on Sky News Arabia. The Syrian president cannot be asked to withdraw his troops unilaterally, he said, adding that both the government and the rebels had committed “violations.”
Russia, which has its only military base outside the former Soviet Union in the Syrian port of Tartus and has been allied to the country since the Soviet era, hasn’t made any new agreements with the Syrian government for weapons deliveries, Lavrov said.