Syria: Vice-president ends rumours he defected

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Syria’s vice-president Farouq al-Sharaa met the Iranian diplomatic delegation visiting Damascus yesterday, marking his first appearance in weeks and ending rumours by opposition activists that he had defected from Assad’s government.

He met the parliamentary delegation, led by senior Iranian official Alaeddin Boroujerdi, according to a reporter who saw them.

Opposition activists had said for weeks that Mr Sharaa had defected to the uprising, and claimed he was hiding in the southern city of Deraa.

There has been a series of high-level defections from the Assad regime in the past few months. Mr Sharaa was last seen at the funeral of four top security officials killed in a blast in Damascus on 18 July. Since then, there had also been rumours that he defected to Jordan, though his office and Jordan repeatedly denied it.

The reporter said Mr Sharaa was steered away from journalists.

Satellite channel Al Arabiya yesterday reported that air force intelligence chief Major-General Jamil Hassan had been assassinated, but a senior government official denied it.