Assad appeared to be losing support in Syria, with three high-ranking military officers, two of them generals, saying they had defected following the apparent online video defection Thursday of Deputy Oil Minister Abdu Hussameldin.
Valerie Amos, the U.N. undersecretary-general in charge of U.N. relief, told reporters in Turkey she saw "destruction" during a trip to the city of Homs, where the government staged a massive crackdown on dissidents, The New York Times reported. Amos, who has also toured refugee camps in Turkey, said the government said it needs more time to look at her relief plans.
Amos visited the Baba Amr neighborhood, a former opposition stronghold in Homs, on Wednesday.
"I was horrified by the destruction I saw," she said. "Almost all the buildings had been destroyed and there were hardly any people there. I am extremely concerned as to the whereabouts of the people who have been displaced."
The officers, who also included a colonel, were among 236 people who entered Turkey to escape fighting between the government and anti-government protesters in Syria, Trend.az reported Friday.
Statistics compiled by the United Nations indicate more than 7,500 Syrians have died in the year-long conflict.
Kofi Annan, U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, has cautioned that military intervention in he country would be a mistake. He was to meet Saturday with Assad in Damascus, CNN reported.
"We have to be careful that we don't introduce a medicine that is worse than the disease," Annan told reporters Thursday at the Arab League's headquarters in Cairo.
"We don't have to go very far in the region to find an example of what I am talking about," the former U.N. secretary-general appointed last week as the special representative said after meeting with league Secretary-General Nabil al-Araby.
Annan said he intended to press the Assad regime "for the cessation of hostilities and an end to the killing and violence -- but of course the ultimate solution lies in a political settlement."
He called for "appropriate" political reforms.
The United Nations and Arab League have appealed to Syrian Assad to step aside in an orchestrated power transfer.
Annan's caution against armed foreign intervention was echoed by Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who warned foreign intervention could be perceived as "exploitation" of the sectarian conflict.
U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called this week for U.S.-led airstrikes against Syrian military installations.
"We do not think it is right for the powers outside the region to intervene in the region. We think it is more appropriate for the region to solve this issue by itself," Gul said in Tunis, Tunisia, as he stood beside interim Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, who offered asylum to Assad.