Vice president ends rumors, makes appearance on TV

Vice president ends rumors, makes appearance on TV

Vice president ends rumors, makes appearance on TV

Iranian envoy Boroujerdi (L) meets with Syrian VP al-Shara, ending rumors that he had defected to Jordan in Damascus AP photo

Syrian Vice President Faruq al-Shara made his first public appearance in over a month yesterday following rumors that he had tried to defect.

Al-Shara, who met the visiting head of the Iranian Parliament’s foreign policy committee, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, was last seen in public at a state funeral for top security officials who were killed in a bomb blast on July 18.

Speculation has swirled since last week over the fate of al-Shara, the highest-ranking Sunni Muslim official in President Bashar al-Assad’s minority Alawite-led regime, since the opposition claimed he had tried to defect. Assad’s regime has been rattled by several high-profile defections as the Syrian conflict has escalated, including former Prime Minister Riad Hijab and prominent General Manaf Tlass, one of Assad’s childhood friends.

Massacre claim

Meanwhile, several hundred bodies have been found in a town near Damascus after a ferocious assault by the Syrian army, a watchdog said, as activists accused government forces of another gruesome “massacre.” Grisly videos issued by opposition militants showed dozens of charred and bloodied bodies lined up in broad daylight in a graveyard, and others lying wall-to-wall in rooms in a mosque in the town of Daraya. At least 320 people were killed in a five-day onslaught on Daraya by troops battling to crush insurgents who have regrouped in the outskirts of the capital, according to a toll from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

State media said Daraya, a mainly Sunni Muslim town of some 200,000 people, was being “purified of terrorist remnants.” President Bashar al-Assad said yesterday that Syria would defeat what he described as a foreign plot being waged against the country. “The Syrian people will not allow this conspiracy to achieve its objectives” and will defeat it “at any price,” al-Assad said.