ISTANBUL – The Syrian ambassador to Iraq has defected and is on his way to Turkey, the most senior diplomat to abandon President Bashar Assad during the 16-month-old uprising, a Syrian opposition figure said Wednesday.
Nawaf Fares, a former provincial governor, would be the second prominent Syrian to break with the regime in less than a week.
Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass, an Assad confidant and son of a former defense minister, fled Syria last week, buoying Western powers and anti-regime activists, who expressed hope that other high-ranking defections would follow.
Appointed to the Baghdad post four years ago, Fares was the first Syrian ambassador to Iraq in 26 years.
Like Tlass, he is a member of the privileged Sunni elite in a regime dominated by Assad’s minority Alawite sect.