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France calls on Syrian military to desert en masse

Reuters/Stringer

France has called on the Syrian military to desert en masse after the defection of an air force colonel who landed his MiG fighter in Jordan. The call comes as Western powers remain frustrated with Russia’s and China’s refusal to back international action against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

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Deserters from the Syrian armed forces are “choosing dignity and the fight for freedom”, French foreign ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero said Friday.

"Yesterday's defection leads us to call on members of the Syrian army and security forces to continue these defections, these desertions and no longer to obey the Damascus regime's criminal orders," Valero told journalists.

Assad's government has pilot Hassan Hammadeh as a "traitor" and demanded the jet be returned.

Jordan's council of ministers has decided to grant him political asylum.

Syrian troops on Friday opened fire on protesters, killing nine, in Aleppo, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Assad’s government accused rebels of carrying out a "brutal massacre" of 25 of its supporters the same day in a flashpoint north-western district of the capital, Damascus.

As thousands of Egyptians protested against a suspected hijacking of the country’s presidential election, French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius for the “choice of the Egyptian people” to be respected.

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