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In other developments, a dissident colonel who now heads a group of army defectors calling themselves the Free Syrian Army said he has fled Syria and found refuge in neighboring Turkey.

Colonel Riad al-Asaad said the regime launched the brutal crackdown last week on the town of Rastan to try to capture him and his comrades who battled against the military. The army retook the town after five days of heavy fighting. Al-Asaad spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday over the telephone.

He said he defected from the army in July after refusing to heed orders to shoot at protesters. Syrian military defections have since then increased.

Al-Asaad says the Free Syrian Army how has more than 10,000 defectors and is becoming the most serious challenge to the president’s regime.

“I call on all the honorable people in the Syrian army to join us so we can liberate our country,” he said. “It is the only way to get rid of this murderous regime.”

Al-Asaad’s comments from Turkey came as Turkey’s military was scheduled to carry out eight days of exercises close to the 850-kilometer (520-mile) long border with Syria. The military has described the drills as routine but analysts said they were intended to increase pressure on Syria.

Turkey’s prime minister said his country and other would press ahead with plans to sanction Damascus and would not be deterred by Monday’s veto of a European-backed resolution that threatened sanctions against Syria if it didn’t immediately stop its violence against civilians.

On Wednesday, Germany, France, Britain, Denmark and the EU joined Turkey in denouncing the veto by Russia and China on what would have been the first legally binding Security Council resolution against Syria since Assad’s military began using tanks and soldiers to attack pro-democracy protesters in mid-March.

Russia and China both said they oppose the crackdown, but that sanctions would not help resolve the crisis. The U.N. vote was 9-2 with four abstentions — India, South Africa, Brazil and Lebanon.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Syria appreciates the stance by Russia and China along with the countries that abstained from voting. The ministry said the move rekindled “hope and confidence in restoring some balance to the world system” after a longtime “domination” by the United States and Europe.