Syria's ambassador to Iraq Nawaf Fares has defected to the opposition and urged the army to turn its guns on the regime, becoming the most senior diplomat to abandon President Bashar al-Assad.
"I announce my defection from my post as representative of the Arab Syrian Republic in Iraq and my withdrawal from the ranks of the (ruling) Baath party," Fares said in a message aired on Al Jazeera TV Wednesday and confirming earlier reports of his defection.
"I call on all free and worthy people in Syria, particularly in the military, to immediately rejoin the ranks of the revolution," he said.
The disaffected diplomat submitted a letter to the Iraqi foreign ministry and will meet with Iraqi officials on Thursday, a diplomat said.
"They are going to discuss sending him to another country," the diplomat added.
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters: "There have been a number of high-level defections in recent days and weeks, and they are simply the tip of the iceberg."