Defection shows Assad has lost control: US
The defection of Syria's prime minister shows President Bashar al-Assad has lost control of the country, and that his people believe his days are numbered, a US official told AFP Monday.
Prime Minister Riad Hijab slipped across the border into Jordan on Sunday night and announced he was joining rebels in the highest-ranking defection of a 17-month uprising against Assad's rule.
He was expected to leave for Qatar within days, his spokesman Mohammad Otri told AFP, in a sign of the internal tensions apparently tearing at Assad's government.
In Washington, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said reports of the defection of Hijab and senior officials were "just the latest indication that Assad has lost control of Syria and that the momentum is with the opposition forces and the Syrian people."
"It's clear that these defections are reaching the highest levels of the Syrian government and demonstrate that the Syrian people believe Assad's days are numbered.
"The quickest way to end the bloodshed and suffering of the Syrian people is for Bashar al-Assad to recognize that the Syrian people will not allow him to continue in power."
Vietor called on all nations to work towards a peaceful transition in Syria to a government reflecting the aspirations of its people.
In Johannesburg, a senior official traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the defections were a sign that the Assad regime was "crumbling."
"Its days are numbered, and we call on other senior members of the regime and the military to break with the bloody past and help chart a new path for Syria -- one that is peaceful, democratic, inclusive and just," the official said.
Hijab was one of the leading Sunni Muslims in Assad's minority Alawite-dominated regime.
He accused his former boss of carrying out a "genocide" against his own people and said four decades of Assad family rule were collapsing.