independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Syria official 'flying to Britain'

UK officials are investigating reports that Syria's foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi has fled to Britain (AP)

The reported flight to the UK of Syria's foreign ministry spokesman is being investigated by UK officials.

A Foreign Office spokesman said it was aware of claims. attributed to Lebanese security officials, that Jihad Makdissi had taken a flight to Britain.

It remained unconfirmed whether Mr Makdissi, previously the spokesman for the Syrian embassy in London, had defected from Bashar al-Assad's regime.

He was a prominent public defender of the Damascus government's response to the 20-month uprising but was reported to have been sacked.

The reports emerged as the United Nations announced it was withdrawing all "non-essential international staff" from Syria amid deteriorating security conditions.

And the US issued fresh warnings to the regime against using chemical weapons after a senior US defence official warned that movements of components had recently been detected.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton echoed President Barack Obama's caution that such action would cross a "red line" for the United States and prompt action, though she did not specify what.

Press Association

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