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France calls on Syrian army to desert

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16:45 CEST+02:00

The French foreign ministry called on Friday for the Syrian military to desert en masse the day after a Syrian air force colonel defected after landing his MiG fighter in Jordan.

"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," ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told journalists.

President Bashar al-Assad's government has denounced the pilot of the MiG fighter plane as a "traitor" and demanded the jet be returned.

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

"France welcomes Colonel Hassan Hammadeh's defection and hails this brave gesture," Valero said.

"He joins the list of officers, junior officers and rank and file soldiers within the Syrian army who are increasingly numerous over the last 15 months in choosing dignity and the fight for freedom faced with the Syrian regime's barbarity," he added.

More than 15,000 people have been killed since the revolt against Assad's rule erupted in March last year, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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