Syrian Prime Minister defects

Tuesday 07 August 2012 08.04
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President Bashar al-Assad appointed Riyad Hijab as prime minister in June
President Bashar al-Assad appointed Riyad Hijab as prime minister in June
A bomb exploded in Syrian state television and radio building in Damascus
A bomb exploded in Syrian state television and radio building in Damascus

Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab has defected less than two months after taking office.

The news came shortly after Syrian state-run TV said that Hijab was fired from his post.

Mr Hijab's defection, if confirmed, is one of the most high profile desertions from President Bashar al-Assad's political and military circles.

Earlier reports said he was in Jordan with his family. However, Jordanian state TV have denied this.

On Sunday, al Arabiya television reported a senior Syrian intelligence officer had also defected to Jordan.

Mr Hijab, a Sunni Muslim from Syria's Sunni province of Deir al-Zor, was also a ruling Baath Party apparatchik.

Mr Assad had appointed Mr Hijab, a former agriculture minister, as prime minister in June following a parliamentary election which came after more than a year of violent protests against Mr Assad's rule.

State television said Omar Ghalawanji, who was a deputy prime minister as well as minister for local administration, would lead a temporary caretaker government.

The White House has said the defection of Syria's prime minister shows that President Bashar al-Assad has lost cohesion within his inner circle and is struggling to sustain a following among the Syrian people.

"This is a sign that Assad's grip on power is loosening," White House spokesman Jay Carney told a news briefing.

"The momentum is with the opposition and with the Syrian people."

TV station bombing

A bomb has exploded on the third floor of a Syrian state television and radio building in Damascus, state media has reported.

The television station, which continued broadcasting, carried an interview with Information Minister Omran al-Zoabi who said some employees were slightly wounded in the blast.

There were no deaths.

"There is a lot of damage," Mr Zoabi said.

"I'm in the ... radio and television building and everything is working and will continue to work. We have a lot of studios and equipment," he said.

Keywords: syria
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