Syrian ambassadors to Emirates, Cyprus defect

AMMAN Wed Jul 25, 2012 5:34pm EDT

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AMMAN (Reuters) - Syria's ambassadors to the United Arab Emirates and Cyprus, who are husband and wife, have defected to Qatar, spokesmen for the opposition Syrian National Council said on Wednesday.

They are the second and third senior diplomats to defect since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began 16 months ago.

"The ambassador (Abdelatif al-Dabbagh) is now in Qatar," SNC spokesman Mohammad Sarmini told Reuters by telephone, referring to the ambassador to the UAE.

Sarmini said Dabbagh is married to Lamia al-Hariri, Syria's ambassador to Cyprus, who defected to Qatar with her husband.

A military attache at the Syrian embassy in Oman told Al Jazeera television he had defected also. "After the killing and bombardment and destruction of our people in Syria increased, and the massacres took place, this ... pushed me to defect from this regime," Mohammad Tahseen al-Faqir said.

Hariri, a Sunni Muslim from the southern province of Deraa, the birthplace of the uprising, is the niece of Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa, whose role is ceremonial in a power structure dominated by Assad's Alawite minority sect.

Nawaf al-Fares, Syria's ambassador to Iraq, who is a Sunni tribal figure from eastern Syria, defected to Qatar through Jordan two weeks ago, according to diplomatic sources.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Ali Abdelatti in Cairo; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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