Former foreign ministry spokesman says Syria "out of control"

BEIRUT Wed Feb 13, 2013 9:13pm IST

A Free Syrian Army fighter aims his weapon to target a regime helicopter in the Aleppo district of Salaheddine February 12, 2013. REUTERS/Aref Hretani

A Free Syrian Army fighter aims his weapon to target a regime helicopter in the Aleppo district of Salaheddine February 12, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Aref Hretani

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria's former foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday he left the country last year because there was no middle ground left in Syria's brutal conflict, but he denied reports that he fled to the United States or Europe.

Jihad Makdissi, who for many months was the international face of President Bashar al-Assad's government, left Syria in late November. Diplomats in the Middle East said he had defected but did not say where he had gone.

"I wish I could stay on Syrian soil but there is no place for moderation or compromise amid this chaos," Makdissi said in a statement carried by Sky News Arabia, which he later confirmed on his Twitter account.

He described his departure from Syria as a temporary absence. "Things are out of control," he added, calling on Syrians to work together to save their nation. "I left a battleground, not a normal country".

Makdissi said he had not set foot in either the United States or Europe since his departure, but was staying with "honourable brothers who are helping the Syrian people get through their humanitarian crisis". He gave no details.

Apparently trying to play down any value his departure might have for Assad's foes, Makdissi said he was not privy to any state secrets. "What I know as a media spokesman is no more than what ordinary Syrians know," he said.

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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