High-ranking Syrian general defects

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Associated Press

Posted on March 16, 2013 at 9:05 PM

Updated Sunday, Mar 17 at 1:04 AM

BEIRUT (AP) — One of the highest-ranking military officers yet to abandon Syrian President Bashar Assad has defected to neighboring Jordan and said in an interview aired Saturday that morale among those still inside the regime had collapsed.

In another setback for the Assad regime, a leading human rights group is accusing Syria's government of stepping up its use of widely banned cluster munitions, which often kill and wound civilians.

The twin blows illustrate the slowly spreading cracks appearing in Assad's regime as well as its deepening international isolation. While few analysts expect the civil war between Assad's forces and rebels seeking his ouster to end soon, most say it appears impossible for the 4-decade-old regime to continue to rule Syria.

Maj. Gen. Mohammed Ezz al-Din Khalouf announced his defection from Assad's regime in a video aired Saturday on the Al-Arabiya satellite channel. It showed him sitting next to his son, Capt. Ezz al-Din Khalouf, who defected with him.

The elder Khalouf said that many of those with Assad's regime have lost faith in it, yet continue to do their jobs, allowing Assad to demonstrate broad support.

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