Authors: Jeanette Torres
(BAGHDAD) -- Numerous members of the Syrian military, including several top generals, have defected in the wake of their country’s 16-month violent anti-government uprising, but President Bashar al-Assad suffered a diplomatic loss on Wednesday when his ambassador to Iraq announced his defection in Baghdad.
Ambassador Nawaf al-Fares is the first senior diplomat to leave Assad’s embattled government.
In a statement released to Al Jazeera, al-Fares said, “I announced my resignation as Syrian ambassador to Iraq as I also declare my defection from the Syrian Baath party. I urge 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.”
“I also declare from this moment that I have joined the ranks of the revolution, a place where I should be at this critical time which Syria is going through,” al-Fares concluded.
Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, says the United States is joining several European nations in calling for Assad to comply with U.N. Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point peace proposal and implement an immediate ceasefire or face the consequences. Those consequences include U.N.-authorized sanctions.
Key Syrian allies, Russia and China, have not yet given their support for a U.N. resolution for sanctions.
Ambassador Rice says Iran is also complicating matters because it continues to support and aid the Assad government.
Syrian opposition forces say more than 17,000 people have been killed in the uprising against the Assad government.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio