Syrian spokesman abandons regime

Feb. 13, 2013 at 12:19 PM
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DOHA, Qatar, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- Jihad Makdissi, a former spokesman for the Syrian Foreign Ministry, said Wednesday he's standing for peaceful change while living in exile.

The Syrian civil war is moving closer to Damascus as fighting will soon enter its third year. Syrian President Bashar Assad has remained defiant despite widespread calls for him to step down.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Tuesday the death toll in Syria was moving closer to 70,000 since conflict began, up from the estimated 60,000 she reported last month.

Makdissi told the BBC he's given up on Assad while living in exile. Missing since December, Makdissi said he's left Syria to support "the peaceful change that's based on national dialogue and partnership away from hatred, extremism and foreign military intervention."

Opposition leaders said they'd consider dialogue with the Syrian president provided he meets their demands. The opposition Syrian National Council, meanwhile, confirmed to Bloomberg News that it was expecting to take over at the Syrian Embassy in Doha, Qatar.

International support for exiled opponents of the Syrian president has grown as the conflict drags on.

"We'll keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people, and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian," said U.S. President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address Tuesday.

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