Syria deputy oil minister defects, video claims

Laura Rozen

A man claiming to be Syria's deputy oil minister Abdo Husameddine has defected, denouncing the Bashar al-Assad regime in a YouTube video that urged his fellow Syrians to "abandon this sinking ship."

"I do not want to end my life servicing the crimes of this regime," Husameddine says on the video which was posted to YouTube late Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. The video has not been independently verified. "You have inflicted on those you claim are your people a full year of sorrow and sadness, denied them their basic rights to life and humanity and pushed the country to the edge of the abyss."

"I join the revolution of this dignified people," he adds.

Husameddine, 48, is the most senior Syrian official known to have publicly broken ranks with the Assad regime, whose year-long brutal crackdown is estimated to have killed well over 7,500 people.

The defection comes as former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is expected to travel to Syria on Saturday to try to mediate in the conflict. Earlier this month, Annan was named as the joint special envoy to the crisis by the United Nations and the Arab League.

On Wednesday, UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos and the International Committee of the Red Cross were able to get into the devastated Bab Amr neighborhood of the Syrian city of Homs for the first time, after weeks of the Syrian government blocking them from entering the area.

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