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Report: Syria won't change position 'even if there is World War III'

Syria will not change its position “even if there is World War III,” its deputy foreign minister reportedly said Wednesday – even as activists claimed that another prominent member of the Assad regime had defected.

Faisal Muqdad insisted Syria’s government would counter any military action aimed at punishing the regime for the suspected use of chemical weapons, according to an interview with AFP cited by regional news outlet Al-Arabiya.

“The Syrian government will not change position even if there is World War III. No Syrian can sacrifice the independence of his country,” he reportedly told AFP.

“Syria has taken every measure to retaliate against...an aggression,” he added.

His comments came as Reuters reported that former Syrian defense minister General Ali Habib, a prominent member of President Bashar Assad's Alawite sect, had defected and was now in neighboring Turkey.

However, Syrian state television denied the report and said Habib was still at his home in the country.

“Ali Habib has managed to escape from the grip of the regime and he is now in Turkey,” Kamal al-Labwani, a senior member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition told Reuters from Paris.

“I was told this by a Western diplomatic official,” Reuters quoted Labwani as saying.

If Habib’s defection is confirmed, it would be the highest ranking figure from the Alawite minority to break with Assad since the uprising against him began in 2011.

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