AMMAN, Jordan - The Associated Press
A hand out picture released by Syrian Arab news agency show Riad Hijab (3-L) and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. EPA Photo
Syria’s defected prime minister said today that Bashar Assad’s regime was near collapse and urged other political and military leaders to tip the scales and join the rebel side.
"The regime is on the verge of collapse morally and economically," Riad Hijab told a news conference in his first public comments since leaving his post and fleeing to Jordan with his family last week. Hijab is the highest-ranking political figure to defect from Assad’s regime.
He said he felt "pain in his soul" over the regime’s shelling and other attacks on rebel strongholds as the government stepped up its military offensive. Activists say more than 20,000 people been killed in the struggle since March 2011.
"I was powerless to stop the injustice," he said, speaking in front of the rebel flag.
He called on "honorable leaders" in Syria to defect.
"Syria is full of honorable officials and military leaders who are waiting for the chance to join the revolution," he said.
"I urge the army to follow the example of Egypt’s and Tunisia’s armies - take the side of people," he added.
Hijab said he was now backing the rebels, but gave no clue on his plans. There had been speculation that he would travel to the Gulf nation of Qatar, which is one of the rebels’ main supporters.