clip from article: 12:37 PM ET September 04, 2013 Market is Open Help
EXCLUSIVE-UPDATE 3-Former Syria defence minister defects in break with Assad
12:00 pm — * Former Syrian defence minister said to defect
* Ali Habib is senior member of president’s Alawite sect
* Arrived in Turkey with other escaping officers (Adds Syrian denial, Turkish foreign minister)
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Amena Bakr
AMMAN/DOHA, Sept 4 (Reuters) – Former Syrian Defence Minister General Ali Habib, a prominent member of President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite sect, has defected and is now in Turkey, a senior member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition told Reuters on Wednesday.
If his defection is confirmed, Habib would be the highest ranking figure from the Alawite minority to break with Assad since the uprising against him began in 2011.
It comes at a time when forces loyal to Assad have made progress against the rebels on the battlefield but face the possibility of a U.S. military strike in response to a chemical weapons attack in Damascus for which Washington blames the Syrian leader.
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