By Naharnet Newsdesk
U.S. intelligence officials helped Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi to flee to Washington earlier this month, The Guardian has reported, after media reports said he had been residing in Lebanon since he left Syria around a month ago.
The newspaper said the alleged development comes after almost a month of debriefings,
Syrian officials have denied that Makdissi has defected, saying he had instead taken three months of administrative leave. However, at the time of his departure, the pro-regime television al-Manar said
Al-Mayadeen, another Beirut-based pro-Syria television, also reported that Maqdessi had defected. Lebanon's al-Jadeed television said
The Guardian said the U.S. State Department did not respond immediately to its requests for comment, and the CIA was “unwilling to discuss the story.”
On Saturday, OTV reported that the Syrian official was residing in Lebanon and has not formally defected from the Syrian regime.
It said there is no restriction on Makdissi's movement in Beirut.
On December 3, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the spokesman had been
However, in the first reaction from Damascus regarding the information that surfaced about a possible defection by the longtime loyalist to President Bashar Assad, Syrian pro-government daily al-Watan said on December 11 that Makdissi has taken sanctioned leave for three months.
A native Arabic speaker and fluent in French and English, Makdissi conducted his thesis in London while working for the Syrian embassy.
The Christian native of Damascus was called back to the Syrian capital soon after an uprising against Assad broke out in March last year to assume the post of foreign ministry spokesman.
He later relocated his wife and two children to Beirut, where he would visit them on the weekends.