A man claiming to be Syria's deputy oil minister has appeared in a YouTube video saying he resigned his post to join the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.
He identified himself as Abdo Husameddine, and said that after 33 years of working for the government he does not want to end his career "serving the crimes" of Assad's "regime."
If confirmed, the defection would mark the most senior official to leave the Syrian government since the opposition uprising began in March of last year.
The attorney general of Hama province announced his resignation via video in August. The government dismissed that video, saying he had been kidnapped and forced to make the statement under duress.
UN official visit
Meanwhile, the U.N. humanitarian chief is expected to meet with Syrian officials and humanitarian representatives in Damascus Thursday, a day after touring the former rebel stronghold of Baba Amr.
A spokeswoman for Valerie Amos said Wednesday she found parts of the district "completely devastated," and that few people were around - most having fled to nearby areas where aid workers are distributing food and medical supplies.
Amos and a Syrian Arab Red Crescent team spent 45 minutes in Baba Amr. The spokeswoman said they tried to access opposition-held areas of the town, but could not negotiate access with the opposition.
Amos met earlier Wednesday with Syria's foreign minister, who told her she is free to go anywhere in Syria.
The visit was the first by an independent observer since the Syrian military began its month-long assault on the rebellious neighborhood that was seized from rebel control last week.
In Washington Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Syria's blocking of humanitarian supplies for civilians represents a “new low” in President Assad's violent campaign against his political opponents. She said tons of food and medicine have been standing by while civilians die and the government launches new assaults. She called the situation "unacceptable."
Also Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the top U.S. military leader outlined the challenges in Syria, including the country's air defenses and its stockpile of chemical weapons. Panetta said the situation in Syria is "terrible" and there are "no easy answers."
"We all wish there was a clear and unambiguous way forward to directly influence the events in Syria. That, unfortunately, is not the case," noted Panetta. " That is not an excuse. That is reality. Only our clear path - our only clear path - is to keep moving in a resolute, determined, but deliberate manner with the international community to find a way to return Syria to the Syrian people."
Senator John McCain has called for U.S. air strikes to end Assad's bloody crackdown. He and other powerful senators also have raised the possibility of arming the Syrian rebels.
Russia weighs in
In New York, Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin accused Libya of training Syrian opposition fighters in Libyan camps and sending them back to Syria to attack pro-Assad forces.
"We have received information that in Libya, with the support of authorities, there is a special training center for the Syrian revolutionaries and their people are sent to Syria to attack the legal government. This is completely unacceptable according to all legal basis," Churkin said. "This activity is undermining stability in the Middle East. We think that al-Qaeda is in Syria and therefore there is the issue, should the export of revolution, is that not turning into the export of terrorism?"
Churkin did not offer additional information, but said the activity is undermining stability in the region.
Russia has been unhappy with how the international community has implemented Security Council resolutions, mandating the protection of Libyan civilians during the fight for liberation from Moammar Gadhafi's 42-year dictatorship.
In Council discussions on the nearly year-long government crackdown in Syria, Russia has repeatedly invoked Libya as a bad example and worked to prevent any kind of international interference in the Syrian conflict.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.