Syrian General, 84 Soldiers Defect to Turkey
Arab League urges opposition to unite at Cairo conference
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 3, 2012 2:29 AM CDT
Foreign ministers from Arab states meet during the Syrian opposition conference in Cairo, Egypt yesterday.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – A Syrian general and 84 other soldiers have fled to Turkey in one of the largest mass defections since the Syrian uprising began. The group, which has joined some 2,000 other former members of the Syrian military in a refugee camp in southern Turkey, included a colonel, lieutenant colonel, and 12 other lower-ranking officers, reports the New York Times. The defections came as Syrian opposition figures met at a conference in Cairo, where the chief of the Arab League urged them to unite.

"There is an opportunity before the conference of Syrian opposition today that must be seized, and I say that this opportunity must not be wasted under any circumstance," he told some 250 opposition members. "The sacrifices of the Syrian people are bigger than us, and more valuable than any narrow differences or factional disputes." Opponents of Bashar al-Assad's regime are a diverse group, including Marxists and Islamists. Infighting among them has prevented the movement from presenting a credible alternative to Assad's rule, AP notes.