- Associated Press - Saturday, March 16, 2013

BEIRUT — A high-ranking general in the Syrian army says he has defected with the help of rebel fighters.

Maj. Gen. Mohammed Ezz al-Din Khalouf said in an interview Saturday with Al-Arabiya TV that he had left the regime and that morale inside the armed forces was bad.

Activist videos posted online show Khalouf sitting with a rebel fighter after his defection and riding in a car to what the video said was the Jordanian border.

The videos appear authentic and are consistent with other reporting by The Associated Press.

While widespread defections from the Syrian army have sapped it of much of its manpower during the two-year-old anti-Assad uprising, high-level defections have been rare.

The U.N. says more than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

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