Saturday, August 18, 2012

Syria denies Assad's deputy tried to defect

(Reuters) - Syria denied reports on Saturday that President Bashar al-Assad's deputy had defected and its forces pursued an offensive against rebels, bombarding parts of Aleppo in the north and attacking an insurgent-held town in the oil-producing east.

Vice-President Farouq al-Shara "never thought for a moment about leaving the country", said a statement from his office broadcast on state television in response to reports that the veteran Baath Party loyalist had tried to defect to Jordan.

Assad, battling a 17-month-old rebellion led by Syria's Sunni Muslim majority that has escalated into civil war, has suffered a string of defections including by his prime minister Riyadh Hijab two weeks ago.

Shara, whose cousin - an intelligence officer - announced his own defection on Thursday, is a Sunni Muslim from Deraa province where the revolt began against Assad, a member of the minority Alawite sect that is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam. Read More