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Syrian official defects, says regime will fight at all costs

By the CNN Wire Staff
January 18, 2012 -- Updated 0120 GMT (0920 HKT)
  • NEW: Tuesday's death toll climbs to 30, the LCC says
  • Syria warns against calls to send in outside troops to end violence, state media reports
  • A parliamentarian who defected says the regime has an open budget to crush the dissent
  • The former official calls for Western powers to help stop the killing

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(CNN) -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will fight at all costs to crush the revolt seeking his ouster, a member of the Syrian Parliament who defected to Egypt said Tuesday.

"There is an open budget allocated to the crackdown on the popular uprising and revolution," said Imad Ghalioun, who was a member of Parliament from the embattled city of Homs before he escaped to Egypt.

"There is no budget for the country but only money to serve the regime's security forces and its 'ghost hit men,'" he said, making a reference to snipers.

The uprising, which is seeking al-Assad's resignation, reforms and democratic elections, is in its tenth month. It has prompted a bloody government crackdown that has claimed at least 5,000 lives since in began in March, according to the United Nations. Opposition groups put the toll at more than 6,000.

At least 30 people were killed across Syria on Tuesday, including four soldiers who defected and two children, according to the opposition Local Coordination Committees. The majority of the deaths were in the restive city of Homs, where 18 were killed, according to the group. Seven others were killed in Idlib. In addition, two people died near Damascus, and one person each in Khan Sheikhon, Daraa and Sahl Al-Ghab, the group said.

The ongoing violence has sparked calls by Qatar's ruler to send Arab troops into Syria, a move the al-Assad regime warned against Tuesday.

Citing an official source in the Foreign Ministry, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said the government would "confront any attempt to undermine Syria's sovereignty."

Al-Assad, who has characterized the anti-government protesters as "armed gangs," has said his security forces are battling terrorists intent on targeting civilians and fomenting unrest.

But much of the international community holds al-Assad's regime responsible for killing dissidents.

"I say again to President Assad of Syria: Stop the violence. Stop killing your people," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said over the weekend. "The path of repression is a dead end."

On Tuesday, CNN went with a group of Arab League monitors to the restive town of Kisweh, where security was tight. Protesters besieged the group with complaints of government brutality.

One demonstrator sprayed the letters S.O.S. on the wall with paint.

Although a number of journalists have been allowed into the country in recent days to travel with Arab League monitors on a fact-finding mission, CNN cannot verify many accounts of what is happening in Syria because the government restricts the activities of journalists.

But Ghalioun, the highest-ranking Syrian official to defect, said the reports of bloodshed by pro-government forces are true. He said Homs is a "ghost town full of horror."

"The humanitarian situation is dangerous ... no basic services, food supplies, or equipped hospitals. Residents cannot move from (one) neighborhood to the other because of snipers that kill people."

Ghalioun said opposition forces need weapons and the enforcement of a no-fly zone by Western powers to take down al-Assad's regime.

"I tell them to go back to your humanitarian values," Ghalioun said. "Build on democracy. And I ask them to help us stop the killing and reach our own true democracy."

CNN's Nic Robertson, Hamdi Alkhshali and Mick Krever and journalists Ian Lee and Mohamed Fadel Fahmy contributed to this report.

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