Faruk Shara
Faruk Shara speaks to journalists in Damascus on Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2007. Photo by AP
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Syrian opposition sources claim Vice President Farouk Shara has defected from Assad's administration and fled to Jordan.

According to a report in Al-Arabiya newspaper, Shara had been hiding in Damascus in recent days. Although official Syrian officials could not confirm the reports, a senior member of the Free Syrian Army confirmed the defection to Al-Arabiya and added that two more senior army officials joined Shara.

Shara was born in Daraa in 1938. He entered public service in 1963, and in 1976 was appointed ambassador to Rome. In 1984 he was named foreign minister, and in 2006 was appointed as vice president instead of Abdal-Khalim Khaddam who had defected to the West a year before.

On Friday, the United Nations confirmed that veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi will replace former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as the international mediator on Syria as the 17-month-old conflict slides deeper into civil war.

"The Secretary-General appreciates Mr. Brahimi's willingness to bring his considerable talents and experience to this crucial task for which he will need, and rightly expects, the strong, clear and unified support of the international community, including the Security Council," said UN spokesman Eduardo del Buey.