Must-Reads from Around the World, July 6, 2012

Among today's stories: a rumored Syrian defection, hardline rhetoric in China's Xinjiang province and Mumbai slum dwellers use film to fight evictions.

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A picture taken on August 22, 1999 shows then Colonel Bashar al-Assad (left), who is the current Syrian President, arriving with Manaf Tlass, son of then Syrian Defence Minister Mustafa Tlass in Kuwait City.

Cracks Appear — The Washington Post covers the purported defection of Maj. Gen. Manaf Tlas, a powerful Syrian military officer and longtime close associate of the Assad family, to Turkey. “If confirmed… it would be the first clear sign of disaffection within the ranks of the many senior Sunni officers who have remained loyal to the government, alongside those drawn from Assad’s Shiite-affiliated Alawite minority,” it said. Later Friday, at a meeting of Friends of Syria in Paris, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that’s he’s on his way to France. Fabius, as reported by the AFP, said “A senior official from the Syrian regime, a commander in the Republican Guard, has defected and is headed to Paris.”

Internal Affairs — China’s state-run Global Times reveals the Communist Party chief in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region has called for an “iron fist” to be used to deal with alleged “separatists, extremists, and terrorists.” The warning comes in the wake of a reported recent attempted plane hijacking and the third anniversary July 5 of riots by ethnic Uighurs. “We should leave the terrorists no place to hide,” it quoted Zhang Chunxian as having said.

Weapons of the Slums — Australia-based Global Mail reports on how slum dwellers facing eviction in the Indian commercial capital Mumbai, where available land is scarce and therefore highly valuable, are defending themselves by using film. “For locals, many of whom are illiterate and living in a swathe of threatened communities, making short films has allowed them to join forces and fight back,” it wrote.

Stolen Identity — Following the convictions of former Argentinean dictator, Jorge Videla and one of his generals Reynaldo Bignone, of abducting the babies of political prisoners during the 1976-1983 “Dirty War,” the BBC interviews one of the “stolen babies.” Victoria Montenegro was captured in 1976, just days after her birth, and given to an army colonel and his wife, assuming the identity Maria Sol Tetzlaff for 25 years. She has described the verdict as “liberating.”

Second Victory — An official recount has reaffirmed the results of Mexico’s presidential election, the Guardian writes. Despite allegations of vote-buying by runner up Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Enrique Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary party (PRI) was shown to have a lead of 3.3m votes. In light of further complaints of campaign spending violations by third-placed candidate Josefina Vázquez, there is now likely to be a legal challenge to the official vote count.

Rattling Their Sabers — Reuters looks “beneath the rhetoric” of war by the U.S. and Iran, revealing that “all sides appear keen to avoid conflict and prevent accidental escalation sides.” Henry Smith, regional analyst at London-based consultancy Control Risks, said “we’re seeing another spike in sabre-rattling from Iran and to a lesser extent from the United States” and concluded that “neither of those countries has any intention of starting a war in the Persian Gulf.”