Syrian rebels on Friday hailed the defection of Brigadier-General Manaf Tlass (pictured right) from forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad as a "major blow" to the regime and said they were going to "seek cooperation" with him.
AFP - The head of the main opposition Syrian National Council hailed Friday the defection of a top general as a major blow to President Bashar al-Assad's regime and said they wanted to work with him.
"This is a major blow to the Assad regime," Abdel Basset Sayda told journalists at a meeting in Paris. "We cannot comment where he is. We are going to seek some cooperation with him. We call for other defections.
General Munaf Tlass, a son of a former defence minister who is close to Assad and his family, defected three days ago, the highest-ranking military officer to have abandoned the regime.
France, hosting a meeting of about 100 countries from the so-called Friends of Syria group where the SNC leader was speaking, confirmed the defection.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was attending the meeting, said Syrian regime officials and officers were "starting to vote with their feet".
"To those soldiers who are still supporting the regime, the Syrian people will remember the choices you made in the coming days and so will the world," she told journalists.
"It is time to abandon the dictator, embrace your countrymen and women and get on the right side of history."
Tlass, who is in his late 40s, was a member of the inner circle in Syria, and a childhood friend of Bashar al-Assad.
A general in the elite Republican Guard charged with protecting the regime, he is the son of former defence minister Mustafa Tlass, a close friend of Assad's late father and predecessor, Hafez.