The New York Times reports: Syrian authorities said on Thursday that their ambassador to neighboring Iraq had been dismissed. It was the first official, if roundabout, confirmation that the diplomat had defected in a new fracturing of the government of President Bashar al-Assad, which has faced a slow but growing rash of desertions in the uprising against him.
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry in Damascus said that the envoy, Nawaf Fares, “has been relieved of his duties” and “no longer has any link with the Syrian Embassy in Baghdad” or with the ministry, the official SANA news agency reported.
The declaration came a day after the envoy made his own announcement in a statement from an unidentified location that he had defected and renounced his membership in Mr. Assad’s Baath Party, urging “all honest members of this party to follow my path because the regime has turned it to an instrument to kill people and their aspiration to freedom.” The Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, said on Thursday that Mr. Fares was currently in Qatar, Iraq’s Al Arabiya channel reported.
In its statement on Thursday, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said the ambassador had “made press statements that contradict the duties of his position of defending the country’s stances and issues, which demands legal and behavioral accountability.” It also accused him of leaving his embassy in Baghdad without prior consent.
Mr. Fares was the first Syrian ambassador to defect since the uprising broke out in March 2011, and the second high-ranking exit from Mr. Assad’s government in less than week, following the departure last Thursday of Manaf Tlass, a general in the elite Republican Guard who is the son of a former defense minister.