Fired deputy PM says he will return to Syria


BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria's sacked deputy prime minister on Friday dashed rumors he had defected, and said he would return from abroad to speak for the opposition in parliament.

Qadri Jamil was fired this week after apparently angering the Syrian government by meeting U.S. officials to discuss a planned Geneva peace conference to halt Syria's civil war.

Jamil considers himself part of the Syrian opposition though he does not support the 2-1/2 year uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. He is strongly disliked by the rebels, who see him as a government stooge.

"I will return to Damascus because we are the internal opposition and I am a member of the People's Assembly," Jamil told Al Arabiya television from Moscow, where he has held further talks about the Geneva meeting.

The interview was highly unusual because Al Arabiya is financed by Saudi Arabia, which backs the Syrian rebels. Syrian officials hardly ever appear on television stations linked to the opposition unless they have defected from Assad.

"Everyone must re-evaluate and reformulate their positions in order to correspond with the current period, emerge from the Syrian crisis and rescue the Syrian people," he told the Arabiya reporter, often speaking to her in a combative tone.

Syrian state TV reported on Tuesday that Jamil was dismissed "because he left his center of work without prior permission and did not follow up on his duties ... Additionally, he undertook activities outside the nation without coordinating with the government."

U.S. and Middle East sources told Reuters that Jamil met the former American ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, on Saturday in Geneva. A Middle East official said, however, that the meeting was "long but useless".

Syria's conflict began as a peaceful protest movement against four decades of Assad family rule, but has degenerated into a civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people.

(Reporting by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)