THE United States has lifted sanctions against former Syrian prime minister Riad Hijab, who defected earlier this month, as it urged more individuals to abandon Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

In a move aimed at convincing members of Assad’s inner circle that they have not been permanently blacklisted, the US Treasury Department unfroze Hijab’s assets.

“This action is being taken because Hijab is no longer a senior official of the Government of Syria,” the Treasury said in a statement.

“The United States encourages other officials within the Syrian government, in both the political and military ranks, to take similar courageous steps to reject the Assad regime and stand with the Syrian people,” Treasury official David Cohen said.

The United States has continually pressed members of Assad’s inner circle to abandon the regime.

Western policymakers hope that a wave of defections will force the collapse of the government, ending a conflict that seems to be in a stalemate.

Neither the government or the rebels appear able to decisively end the war and there seems little prospect of foreign military intervention.