19 Aug 2012

Defection report denied

5:57 pm on 19 August 2012

The Syrian government has denied reports that Vice President Farouq al-Shara has defected.

State television has broadcast a statement from his office, saying he ''never thought for a moment about leaving the country''.

The former foreign minister appeared in public last month at a state funeral for three security officials killed in a bomb attack in Damascus.

The statement said Mr Shara, 73, welcomed the appointment of Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi as a new international mediator for Syria.

There have been a series of defections from the government of President Bashar al-Assad recently, including prime minister Riyadh Hijab two weeks ago.

Shara's cousin - an intelligence officer - announced his own defection on Thursday.