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Syrian general defects in latest setback for Assad

Published: Sunday, March 17, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

BEIRUT – One of the highest-ranking military officers yet to abandon Syrian President Bashar Assad defected to neighboring Jordan and said in an interview aired Saturday that morale among those still inside the regime had collapsed.

In another setback for the Assad regime, a leading human rights group accused Syria’s government of stepping up its use of widely banned cluster munitions, which often kill and wound civilians.

The twin blows illustrated the slowly spreading cracks appearing in Assad’s regime as well as its deepening international isolation. While few analysts expect the civil war between Assad’s forces and rebels seeking his ouster to end soon, most say it appears impossible for the 4-decade-old regime to continue to rule Syria.

Maj. Gen. Mohammed Ezz al-Din Khalouf announced his defection in a video Saturday.

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