In a surprising blow to the Al Assad regime, Syria's ambassador to Iraq, Nawaf al-Fares, became the first high profile diplomat to announce he was quitting the government. He announced his resignation on the Arabic television channel Al Jazeera that he had defected, and had joined the opposition forces against President Bashar al-Assad. Symbolically he was speaking in front of the green and white Syrian flag which was used before the Baath party came into power. He appealed to Syrian soldiers to follow his lead and turn their guns on the Damascus leadership. This is what he said.

"I announce my resignation as Syria's ambassador to Iraq. I also announce my withdrawal from the Baath Party and I call on all party members to do the same because the regime has transformed it into a tool to oppress the people and their aspirations to freedom and dignity. I announce, from this moment on, that I am siding with the people's revolution in Syria; my natural place in these difficult circumstances which Syria is going through."

This departure of such a high profile trusted figure will be a source of embarrassment for the Al Assad government and a coup for the Syrian freedom fighters who will view this defection as the first sign that the Al Assad house of cards may be falling down.

Written and Presented by Ann Salter