The former head of the United Nations observer mission in Syria has said that President Bashar al-Assad's fall is "only a matter of time", but that his exit may not end the conflict.
"Sooner or later, the regime will fall," Robert Mood, the Norwegian general, said on Friday. "The spiral of violence, the lack of proportion in the regime's reactions, its incapacity to protect the civilian population, mean that the regime's days are numbered, but will it fall in a week or in a year? That is a question I do not dare answer."
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Mood, whose mandate expired last week, led the UN's roughly 300-member observer force, and characterised the fight between the rebels and the country's military as a case of "David versus Goliath".
He said if rebels brought down Assad, it would not necessarily end of the conflict, which has now lasted for 16 months.
"Many think that if Bashar al-Assad falls or that if he is given an honourable exit ... the problem will be solved. That is an over-simplification one should be wary of," Mood told a news conference. "The situation could even get worse."
But Mood also said "it is impossible to imagine a future Syria with the current power holders still in place".
"Every time there are 15 people killed in a village, 500 additional sympathisers are mobilised, roughly 100 of whom are
fighters," Mood said.
Mood has been replaced by Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, a Senegalese military officer who is taking over a drastically reduced mission of just 150 observers. Gaye's mission has a mandate of only 30 days.
Meanwhile, Assad's government continued to lose supporters. The expatriate opposition announced on Friday that Ikhlas Badawi, who represented the city of Aleppo in Syria's newly elected parliament, had fled to Turkey.
"There were contacts for some time to ensure her a safe place," Samir Nashhar, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council, told the AFP news agency. "She arrived [on Thursday] in Turkey and she will be going to Qatar, which has agreed to receive her."
Badawi, in a press conference on Friday, condemned the Assad government for refusing to help the Syrian people.
"Its cronies control and manipulate the parliament, turning it from a legislative authority into just a tool for passing prefabricated laws for the sake of the regime and in contrary to what we had pledged Allah and the people," she said.
Nasshar said that Syrian authorities had asked legislators in Aleppo to leave the city ahead of a planned major offensive on the city.
"They were ordered to take a plane because the Damascus-Aleppo highway wasn't safe, but she took a plane to Turkey instead," said Nasshar, who is originally from Aleppo and currently based in Turkey.
Badawi, who fled with her six children, is now the fourth Syrian legislator to publically break with the government since the uprising against Assad began in March last year.
In January, Imad Ghalioun, a member of the parliamentary budget committee, announced he was seeking refuge in Egypt, calling on the opposition to ensure the interest of the Syrian people "who want to achieve freedom".
But Badawi, a member of Assad's Baath party, is the first member of the new parliament elected in May to renounce him.
The most senior figure to defect from Assad's inner circle, Brigadier General Manaf Tlass, who is also the son of a former defence minister, put himself forward on Thursday as someone who could help unify the opposition inside and outside Syria on a plan for a transfer of power.
Tlass, speaking in a newspaper interview in the Saudi city of Jeddah, also said he was looking for support from Saudi Arabia and other powers. He also appeared in a public meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
Many activists are ambivalent toward Tlass and his family, which benefited from years of loyalty to Assad, and it remains unclear if he can unify various factions.