BEIRUT (AP) -- A top Syrian military commander, a close friend of Syrian President Bashar Assad, has confirmed his defection from the regime.
Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass, son of a former defense minister, said in a video broadcast on Al-Arabiya TV that Syrians must work together to build a new, democratic country.
It was his first public appearance since he left Syria earlier this month. His long silence raised questions about whether he had joined the anti-Assad uprising or merely fled the civil war.
Tlass is the highest-level defector from the Syrian regime in 17 months of bloodshed that activists say has killed more than 19,000 people.
He was a member of the elite Republican Guard and son of former Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass.
The younger Tlass did not say where he is.