Syria’s state news agency SANA said on Saturday that a fake email had been sent out in its name claiming that Vice President Faruq al-Shara had been sacked.
Speculation has swirled since last week over the fate of Shara, the most high-ranking Sunni Muslim official in President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite-led regime, since the opposition claimed a week ago he had tried to defect.
“People seeking to dupe (the public) created an email in SANA’s name and sent this false and invented information to certain websites in Syria,” the agency said.
“This information is completely wrong… it is a fictitious email,” it said.
Last Saturday, state television quoted a statement from Shara’s office saying that “Mr Shara has never thought about leaving the country or going anywhere.”
Shara, 73, who has served in senior posts for almost 30 years under both Assad and his late father and former president Hafez al-Assad, has not been seen in public since.
Assad’s regime has been rattled by several high-profile defections as the Syrian conflict has escalated, including former prime minister Riad Hijab and high profile General Manaf Tlass, one of Assad’s childhood friends.
A former minister who defected this year said last Saturday that it was “well-known” that Shara had tried to leave the country and was under house arrest.
Syria was also forced to deny last week that Foreign Minister Walid Muallem had announced on Twitter he had replaced Shara, with SANA saying the information was “wrong” and that Muallem did not have a Twitter account.