Syria paper slams US over sanctions

'Tishrin' urges Obama to abandon "foolish policies," says Damascus hopes US won't cave in to Israel.

Bashar Assad 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Bashar Assad 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Syria rejected the Obama administration's decision to renew economic and diplomatic sanctions against Damascus and urged Washington to abandon "foolish policies," a state-run newspaper reported Sunday. The State Department announced Friday that US President Barack Obama felt compelled to renew the sanctions, which were first imposed by George W. Bush's administration in 2004 as diplomatic contact dwindled. The decision came even as two US envoys were in the Syrian capital exploring prospects for improved relations. Syria's Tishrin newspaper on Sunday said US policies of isolation, blockades and sanctions adopted by the former US administration "have put the United States in an intractable impasse." It said Washington can reverse this path if it stepped up its role in promoting peace, security and stability in the Middle East. The United States should get rid of "foolish policies and replace them with openness, dialogue and discussions through transparent practices, the foremost of which is an open and final reversal of the policy of sanctions against states and peoples," the newspaper said in a front-page editorial. Tishrin said Syria is engaged in an ongoing dialogue with the US "in a real test of the nature of US intentions." It said Damascus is hopeful that the Obama administration will not cave to Israeli pressures or maintain the old policies against Syria. A State Department official in Damascus told The Associated Press Sunday that the renewal of sanctions was not related to the envoys' visit. "This is a routine renewal unrelated to the trip. By law, the president must continue the national emergency annually in order for it to remain in effect," the official said on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak publicly to the media. The US announcement coincided with renewed high-level diplomatic contacts with Damascus. Two US envoys, including the State Department's top Middle East official, Jeffrey Feltman, were in Damascus last week for meetings with top officials. Obama, in a departure from the Bush administration, is seeking a diplomatic opening with Syria in hope that it could play a positive role not only in the Mideast peace process but also in neighboring Iraq. Bush first imposed the sanctions in May 2004, citing Syrian support for terrorism, its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and other activities including efforts to undermine US operations in Iraq. Syria denies the allegations.