Damascus: In what sounded like an emotionally powerful speech, urging the political and military leaders of Syria to join rebels, Riad Hijab, the defected Syria PM said that Assad’s regime was “on the verge of collapse” and only 30 percent of the nation was under regime control.
Riad Hijab, who is the highest-ranking political figure to defect from Assad’s regime, fled to Jordan last month.
Speaking for the first time in public after defection, the former Syrian PM said, "The regime is on the verge of collapse morally and economically."
"I was powerless to stop the injustice," he said to a news conference.
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.
Urging the remaining leaders to defect, he said, "Syria is full of honorable officials and military leaders who are waiting for the chance to join the revolution”.
"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.
Meanwhile, fierce clashes continued to rage in northern Syria on Tuesday. The rebels, who had posted a video on Monday, claimed that they had downed a Syrian plane and held the pilot captive.
UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos is scheduled to fly to Syria and Lebanon today, to discuss ways to increase emergency aid to civilians affected by the conflict.
Activists say, more than 20, 000 have been killed so far during the seventeen month long uprising plaguing Syria.
The UN said an estimated 2.5 million Syrians have been injured, displaced or face problems securing food or other necessities, a sharp rise from about 1 million three months ago.
With Agency Inputs
First Published: Tuesday, August 14, 2012, 18:07