Opponents of President Bashar Assad of Syria met in Paris on Friday, July 6, with their international sponsors to intensify pressure for his removal, buoyed by word that Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass, a commander in the elite Republican Guard, and a member of the Damascus aristocracy, had defected and fled the country, The New York Times
reported. As the gathering of more than 100 countries opened, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for increased pressure on Syria to implement a proposal for a transitional government agreed at a separate meeting among outside powers in Geneva last weekend. The number of high-ranking officers quitting Assad’s forces has increased markedly in recent days as violence has mounted, but the departure of General Tlass was the first from within the gilded circle around the president since the uprising against him began in March 2011.