US welcomes Syrian pilot's defection

AFP , Thursday 21 Jun 2012

US National Security Spokesman welcomes the defection of a Syrian fighter pilot to Jordan and describes the decision as the 'right thing'

Image made from amateur video showing Syrians hold revolutionary flags and chat slogans during a demonstration in Idlib province, Syria, Wednesday, June 20, 2012. (Photo: AP)

The United States on Thursday swiftly welcomed the defection of a Syrian fighter pilot to Jordan and said he would not be the last person to do the "right thing" and desert Damascus's armed forces.

Washington's response came shortly after the Syrian government called the pilot of the MiG fighter plane a "traitor" and demanded the jet be returned after he was offered political asylum in Jordan.

"We welcome this pilot's decision to do the right thing," US National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told AFP.

"We have long called for the military and members of the Syrian regime to defect and abandon their positions rather than be complicit in the regime's atrocities.

"This is just one of countless instances where Syrians, including members of the security forces, have rejected the horrific actions of the Assad regime, and certainly it will not be the last."

A Jordan Armed Forces statement said the Syrian air force Russian-made MiG landed in the country at 0745 GMT.

Jordan's council of ministers then decided to grant the pilot, Colonel Hassan Merei al-Hamade, political asylum, Information Minister Samih Maaytah told AFP.

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