Conflict & Justice

Syrian spokesman leaves post as UN pulls out of Syria


Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi speaks during a press conference in Damascus on July 15, 2012.


Louai Beshara

Due to increasingly hostile conditions the United Nations will pull all non-essential staff out of Syria, the UN said Monday.

Regional Humanitarian Coordinator Radhouane Nouicer told IRIN news agency that security was increasingly unstable.

"The security situation has become extremely difficult, including in Damascus," he said.

Meanwhile, Syria's Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi reportedly either was fired or defected Monday, following statements he made that ran counter to the government's position, according to Lebanon's al-Manar Television.

"He defected. All I can say is that he is out of Syria," an anonymous source told Reuters.

It's unclear precisely what led to Makdissi's departure. However, if Makdissi has indeed fled the regime of Bashar al Assad, he is the latest to join the ever-growing list of high- and low-ranking defectors.

Reuters attempted to contact Makdissi via mobile phone without success.

The news follows a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Damascus about Syria's reported chemical weapons movement.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned President Bashar al Assad against using chemical weapons.

“This is a red line for the United States,” Clinton said in a Monday statement, according to The New York Times. “I am not going to telegraph in any specifics what we would do in the event of credible evidence that the Assad regime has resorted to using chemical weapons against their own people. But suffice it to say we are certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to occur.”

Wired released an exclusive report on Monday claiming that "engineers working for the Assad regime in Syria have begun combining the two chemical precursors needed to weaponize sarin gas," according to information from an American official.

The official told Wired: “Physically, they’ve gotten to the point where the can load it up on a plane and drop it.”

The AFP reported Syria's ministry saying it ‘‘would not use chemical weapons — if there are any — against its own people under any circumstances.’’