15 Aug 2012

Assad rule disintegrating, says ex-PM

11:32 am on 15 August 2012

Former Syrian prime minister Riyad Hijab says President Bashar al-Assad's government is falling apart and controls only 30% of the country.

In his first public appearance since defecting to the opposition, Mr Hijab told a news conference in Jordan the government's spirits are low after struggling for 17 months to crush the revolt against Mr Assad's rule.

Mr Hijab says the regime has lost swathes of territory along Syria's northern and eastern border and fighting has weakened its hold on larger cities such as Aleppo and Homs.

He says the regime is collapsing, morally, materially and economically.

Mr Hijab was not in Assad's inner circle, Reuters reports, but as the most senior civilian official to defect, his flight after two months in the job looked embarrassing for the president.

He did not explain his estimate of the territory still controlled by President Assad, whose military outnumbers and outguns the rebels fighting to overthrow him.

The army is battling to regain control of Aleppo, Syria's biggest city, after retaking parts of Damascus that were seized by insurgents last month.

Curbs on media access make it hard to know how much of Syria is in rebel hands, but most towns and cities along the country's backbone, a highway running from Aleppo in the north to Deraa in the south, have been swept up in the violence.