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Syria's ex-Prime Minister: Regime on the verge of collapse (+video)

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'Take the side of the people'

"Syria is full of honorable officials and military leaders who are waiting for the chance to join the revolution," he said, adding that Assad's forces only control 30 percent of Syria.

"I urge the army to follow the example of Egypt's and Tunisia's armies — take the side of the people," he added.

Hijab said he was now backing the rebels, but gave no clue on his plans. There had been speculation that he would travel to the Gulf nation of Qatar, which is one of the rebels' main supporters.

A spokesman for outgoing U.N. peace envoy Kofi Annan said that Syria authorities have backed Lakhdar Brahimi as his successor. The spokesman, Ahmed Fawzi, said the next step was for Brahimi, a former Algerian foreign affairs minister and longtime U.N. official, to formally accept the post and resume efforts for a diplomatic solution to Syria's crisis.

In Geneva, the U.N. said that its humanitarian chief has begun talks in Syria on a mission to boost international aid inside the war-battered country. Valerie Amos was to meet with Syria's foreign ministry and the Red Crescent, which has been the pipeline for humanitarian supplies to Syrians caught in the civil war.

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