Syria's most prominent defector has put himself forward as someone to unite the fractured opposition as the disparate factions try to agree on a transitional leadership if Bashar Assad's regime is toppled.
Brig Gen Manaf Tlass, a commander in the powerful Republican Guard and the son of a former defence minister who was the most trusted lieutenant of the president's father, defected in early July and flew to Paris.
He is now in Saudi Arabia, a key financial backer of the rebellion, where he told the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily that he does not see a future for Syria with his former friend at the helm. “I will try and help as much as I can to unite all the honourable people inside and outside Syria to put together a roadmap to get us out of this crisis, whether there is a role for me or not,” he said.
He said he defected when he realised the regime could not be deterred from its single-minded pursuit of crushing the opposition.
However, one European Union official familiar with Western intelligence reports, has dismissed Tlass as a “peripheral figure” in the regime, claiming he had been sidelined.