The Straits Times
Published on Dec 04, 2012

Syrian government spokesman flees country, diplomat says


CAIRO/BEIRUT (REUTERS) - A Syrian foreign ministry spokesman, who was the most public face of Bashar Al-Assad's government as it battled a 20-month-old uprising, has defected and fled the country, a diplomat in the region said on Monday.

Mr Jihad al-Makdissi, who is in his 40s, previously worked at the Syrian embassy in London and returned to Damascus a year ago to serve as spokesman for the ministry, defending the government's crackdown on the revolt against Mr Assad's rule.

He had little influence in a system largely run by the security apparatus and the military. But Mr Assad's opponents will see the loss of such a high profile figure, if confirmed, as further evidence of a system crumbling from within.

Rebel forces have made advances in recent weeks, seizing several military bases including some outside the capital Damascus.