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Leading Assad defector to head Syrian opposition in talks: Reports

Riad Hijab was a former Syrian prime minister under Assad but fled Syria in 2012
Riyad Hijab in Cairo on 11 February 2013 (AFP)

The Syrian opposition will name former prime minister Riad Hijab as the chief coordinator of an allied opposition body expected to head up future peace talks.

According to sources who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, Hijab, who defected from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government in 2012, was selected during a meeting in Riyadh.

The sources said that Hijab has secured 24 votes of a possible 34. 

Hijab, from the government-held Deir Ezzor area in east Syria, was appointed as a prime minister by Assad in June 2012 but defected less than two months later. At the time, Syria state-run television said that Hijab was sacked.

However, a statement given by Hijab's spokesman Mohammed al-Etri on his behalf to the Al Jazeera channel said that Hijab was now part of the "holy revolution" and described the Syrian government as a "murderous regime".

"I address you today at this grave hour where the country is living under the brunt of genocide and barbarian brutal killing against unarmed people who are simply demanding freedom and a dignified life," said the statement.

"Today I declare...that I have defected from the terrorist, murderous regime and [am] joining the holy revolution. And I declare that from today I am a soldier of this holy revolution."

Hijab was the first Syrian cabinet minister to defect.

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