[QODLink]
Middle East
Obama renews Syria sanctions
US president calls country an "extraordinary threat" to US security and foreign policy.
Last Modified: 04 May 2010 09:13 GMT
There was little expectation Obama would lift the sanctions, first imposed by Bush in 2004 [AFP]

Barack Obama, the US president, has renewed economic sanctions against Syria for another year.

He cited what the White House called Syria's "extraordinary threat" to US security and foreign policy in taking the decision on Monday.

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.

Internet curbs remain

US sanctions also prevent Syrians from accessing a number of websites hosted in the US.

SourceForge, a repository for open-source software, blocks Syrian users.

Google does not allow people in Syria to download its Chrome browser.

The social networking site LinkedIn temporarily banned Syrian users last year, though it has since changed its policy.

Activists have urged the US government to lift its digital sanctions, which also apply to several other countries, including Sudan and Iran.

But Washington has not moved to ease those restrictions - even after Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, delivered a speech earlier this yearcalling for greater internet freedom.

Obama's announcement of renewed sanctions comes at a time of heightened tensions between the US and Syria.

Scud controversy

The US and Israeli governments both recently accused Syria of equipping Hezbollah with sophisticated Scud missiles. 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.

Source:
Al Jazeera
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
Frustration grows in Kiev as pledges to end corruption and abuse of power stagnate after Maidan Square protest.
Thousands of Houthi supporters have called for the fall of Yemen's government. But what do the Houthis really want?
New ration reductions and movement restrictions have refugees from Myanmar anxious about their future in Thailand.
US lawyers say poor translations of election materials disenfranchise Native voters.
US drones in Pakistan have killed thousands since 2004. How have leaders defended or decried these deadly planes?
join our mailing list