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In the wake of a report in last month's Jerusalem Post, the US House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a unanimous resolution calling on Saudi Arabia to drop its boycott of Israel and urging the Bush administration to press the desert kingdom on the issue.
Though non-binding, the resolution signaled Congress's growing dismay with Saudi Arabia's continued enforcement of an economic and trade boycott of the Jewish state in violation of a pledge made to Washington last November to end the embargo once and for all.
At the time, Saudi Arabia agreed to drop the prohibition on trade with Israel in order to be allowed into the World Trade Organization (WTO), which bars discriminatory trade practices.
Nonetheless, as the Post reported on March 7, the Saudis went ahead with hosting a major international conference aimed at promoting a global Islamic trade embargo on the Jewish state.
The Post report also found that the Saudi government continues to prohibit entry to products made in Israel or to foreign-made goods containing Israeli components.
"Absolutely not - if it is from Israel it is not allowed," Hamad Abdul Aziz of the Saudi Customs Department at Jidda's Islamic seaport told the Post by phone in the March report. "I checked with my manager, and he said it is completely forbidden."
Similarly, a Saudi customs official at King Abdul Aziz Airport outside Jidda also told the Post that Israeli goods were not allowed into the kingdom. "It is prohibited," he said. "It is not allowed to bring any goods made in Israel, whether the whole item or only part of it was made there. That is the rule."
After the passage of the resolution in the House, Republican representative Clay Shaw, who serves as Chairman of the US House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, said, "Saudi Arabia has rights and commitments to all of its fellow WTO members, including Israel. Upon entering the WTO, Saudi Arabia agreed to provide non-discriminatory treatment to all WTO members. Therefore. I call on Saudi Arabia to live up to its obligations and end this boycott now."
Democrat Benjamin L. Cardin, who co-sponsored the resolution together with Shaw, said upon its passage: "International trade must be free and fair. It is essential that as nations join the WTO, they play by the rules. To that end renunciation of all vestiges of the Israeli boycott is vital to Saudi Arabia participating fully in WTO and international trade community. I trust today's resolution will make that point most clear."
The resolution passed states that "Saudi Arabia should maintain and fully live up to its commitments under the World Trade Organization (WTO) and end all aspects of any boycott on Israel." It also called on US President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the US Trade Representative to "continue their active involvement on this issue by strongly urging the Government of Saudi Arabia to comply with its WTO obligations and end any boycott on Israel."
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