DAMASCUS, Syria – Syria denounced U.S. economic sanctions on Wednesday, and other Arab countries – including close U.S. allies – joined in the criticism. Europe ignored the penalties by dispatching a trade delegation to Damascus.
Some Arabs questioned the validity of the measures and the motives behind them, saying the measures serve Israeli – not American – interests and could further antagonize Arab feelings toward the United States, already soured by the war in Iraq, the prisoner-abuse scandal and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Neighboring Lebanon may prove to be a major loophole in the sanctions, which ban all U.S. exports to Syria except food and medicine and forbids flights between Syria and the United States. Goods have traditionally flowed across the border from Lebanon to Syria.
Trade between the United States and Syria amounts to only $300 million a year and there are currently no flights between Syria and the United States. .
Syrian Prime Minister Naji al-Otari said the sanctions were “unjust and unjustified,” and played down their effects while expressing hope for continued dialogue with Washington.
The United States imposed the embargo on Tuesday as a response to allegations that Syria was supporting terrorism and undermining U.S. efforts in neighboring Iraq.
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