(AMMAN, Jordan) — Speaking for the first time since he defected to Jordan last week, Syria’s former prime minister announced on Tuesday he’s joined the rebels in their 17-month quest to out President Bashar al-Assad.
“We will do everything we can to liberate these people and to, for the return of the displaced to their homes — dignified, victorious on the land of Syria. Long live Syria,” Riad Hijab said through a translator.
Since the conflict between government and rebel forces began in March 2011, an estimated 20,000 people have died in Syria.
Hijab urged other top officials to join the rebel cause and said Assad’s days are numbered.
“The regime is collapsing — morally, financially, economically and military broken,” he said.
He also thanked Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey — supporters of the country’s Sunni insurgency — for helping the rebels take on the regime.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ivana Kottasova and Armelle De Oliveira, CNN
Andreas Preuss and Joe Sutton, CNN