JERUSALEM, Israel -- Syrian Deputy Oil Minister Abdo Hussameldin became the highest-ranking official to defect from the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
His announcement, aired on YouTube Thursday morning, ended his 33-year government career, Reuters reported.
"I, Abdo Hussameldin, deputy oil and mineral wealth minister in Syria, announce my defection from the regime, resignation from my position and withdrawal from the Ba'ath Party," he said, reading from a prepared statement.
Hussameldin said he did not wish to end his long government career, but he could not continue "serving the crimes of this regime."
"I join the revolution of this dignified people," he said. "I have preferred to do what is right although I know that this regime will burn my house and persecute my family."
"I say to this regime. You have inflicted on those you claim are your people a whole year of sorrow and sadness, denying them basic life and humanity and driving Syria to the edge of the abyss," he said.
UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, who arrived in Syria Wednesday for a three-day visit, hopes to convince the government to allow humanitarian supplies and aid workers in the country.
The United Nations estimates that more than 7,500 people have been killed since the demonstrations turned uprising began almost a year ago.