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Three Syrian army figures 'defect'

Two Syrian generals and a colonel have defected to Turkey, the country's state-run television reports.

It comes as the Syrian forces seem to be targeting more rebellious areas, including the northern province of Idlib near Turkey.

The report of the defections came as UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos toured Syrian refugee camps along the border with Turkey before talks with the country's foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

TRT television said the three former officers were among 234 Syrians who have crossed into Turkey since Thursday. Some 12,000 Syrians now live in six refugee camps in Turkey.

President Bashar Assad's regime has suffered a steady stream of low-level army defectors, who have joined a group of dissidents known as the Free Syrian Army, now numbering in the thousands.

On Thursday, Syria's deputy oil minister became the highest-ranking civilian official to join the opposition and urged his countrymen to "abandon this sinking ship" as the nation spirals toward civil war.

The leader of Syria's main opposition group has rejected calls from UN envoy Kofi Annan for dialogue with Assad's government, saying they they would be pointless and unrealistic as the regime massacres its own people.

Annan, the joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, has said his mission is to start a "political process" to resolve the conflict in the country. He is due in Syria this weekend and will meet Assad.

Speaking in Cairo on Thursday after talks with Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby, he said: "I hope that no one is thinking very seriously of using force in this situation. I believe any further militarisation would make the situation worse."

Burhan Ghalioun, who heads the opposition Syrian National Council, said: "These kind of comments are disappointing and do not give a lot of hope for people in Syria being massacred every day. It feels like we are watching the same movie being repeated over and over again. My fear is that, like other international envoys before him, the aim is to waste a month or two of pointless mediation efforts."


From Belfast Telegraph