Last Updated: Thu Jul 12, 2012 17:29 pm (KSA) 14:29 pm (GMT)

France says Syrian defector Tlas in talks with opposition

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius could not confirm whether the defected Syrian general was in France. (Reuters)
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius could not confirm whether the defected Syrian general was in France. (Reuters)

Syrian general Manaf Tlas, a former friend and ally of President Bashar al-Assad who fled Damascus last week, is in contact with Syrian opposition rebels, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Thursday.

“I know the opposition and this general have approached each other ... contact has been made,” Fabius told reporters in Paris, according to Reuters.

Tlas, the highest-ranking military officer to have abandoned the Syrian regime, was a member of the inner circle of power in Syria, and a childhood friend of President Bashar al-Assad.

A general in the elite Republican Guard charged with protecting the regime, he is the son of former defense minister Mustafa Tlas, a close friend of Assad’s late father and predecessor, Hafez.

Several sources have said that he was either headed for Paris, where much of the Syrian political opposition is based, or was already there.

His father lives in the French capital, as does his sister, the widow of a wealthy Saudi arms dealer, according to AFP.

However, Fabius said he could not confirm whether Tlas was in France.

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