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Representatives of 14 Arab states convened in Damascus this week for a four-day gathering aimed at strengthening the economic and trade boycott of Israel.
The event, which began on Monday, is being held under the auspices of the Arab League and brings together regional liaison officers from participating Arab countries. It marks the fourth time the boycott officers have met in the past 18 months.
Ostensible US allies such as Iraq and Saudi Arabia are among the countries taking part.
This is likely to evoke irritation in Washington, as US officials have been pressing Baghdad and Riyadh to end their enforcement of the embargo, which bars trade with Israel or dealing in Israeli-made goods.
As The Jerusalem Post revealed last week, the Saudis continue to implement the boycott of Israel in violation of a pledge made to the Bush Administration in November 2005.
On the basis of that pledge, Washington agreed to the desert kingdom's request to accede to the World Trade Organization.
According to reports in the Syrian press, the
participants at this week's conference are planning to add an undisclosed number of foreign firms to the blacklist they maintain of companies that do business with Israel.
Presiding over the meeting is Assistant Secretary-General of the Arab League Muhammad Soboh, who praised Syria in his opening remarks for playing host to the boycott office.
Although the Arab League has its headquarters in Cairo, the organization's Office for the Boycott of Israel has been based in the Syrian capital since its establishment in 1951.
Various speakers at the conference underlined the importance of the embargo on Israel as a means of pressuring the Jewish state to make diplomatic concessions.
"The Arab boycott of Israel will remain an influential tool and strong backer of the Palestinian people until the establishment of their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital and the restoration of all the occupied Arab territories," Muhammad al-Ajami, director of the Syrian Office for the Boycott of Israel, told the official Syrian news agency SANA.
Other participants in this week's parley include Syria, Sudan, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Libya, Lebanon, Qatar, the Palestinian Authority, Tunisia and Yemen.
Egypt and Jordan, both of which have signed peace treaties with Israel, are not participating in the meeting.
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