Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Obama renews sanctions against Syria
President Barack Obama has renewed economic sanctions against Syria for another year.Obama offered a little praise for Syria: he wrote in a message to congress that the Syrian government has made "some progress" towards reducing the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq, long a contentious issue between the two countries.But he said that Syria's "continuing support for terrorist organisations and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and missile programmes, continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States". There was little expectation Obama would lift the sanctions, which he also renewed last year.
In his statement, Obama demanded that Syria demonstrate "progress" before the sanctions could be lifted.
The sanctions - first imposed in 2004 by George Bush, the then president - restrict most US exports to Syria.
The US and Israeli governments both recently accused Syria of equipping Hezbollah with sophisticated Scud missiles (picture). The Syrian government has denied those reports; Hezbollah leaders refuse to comment.
Major-General Alberto Asarta Cuevas, the head of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon, said last week that he has seen no evidence of Scud missiles in Lebanon.
Obama took office pledging better engagement with Syria, and in February he named Robert Stephen Ford as the US ambassador to Syria. Ford would be the first American ambassador in Damascus since 2005, when Bush withdrew the US diplomat after the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister. But the US senate has yet to confirm Ford's nomination, and it is unclear when legislators plan to vote.