Obama extends Syria sanctions

WASHINGTON (JTA) —President Obama extended sanctions on Syria.

The orders Friday extending sanctions first implemented by President George W. Bush in 2004 come just days after U.S. officials said they would welcome renewed talks toward better relations with Syria.

Obama has said he would couple tough sanctions with outreach in dealing with rogue nations and this week’s carrot-then-stick approach could signify how he plans to deal with Iran and its suspected nuclear weapons program. 

The sanctions were based on a law initiated by U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and passed overwhelmingly in 2003 in part because of Syria’s role in backing anti-Israel terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. 

Bush did not impose the full range of sanctions, instead choosing to withdraw the U.S. ambassador, ban Syrian flights to the United States and ban U.S. exports to Syria except for food and medicine.

Obama chose the same bans and also extended bans Bush initiated on dealings with Syrian individuals and entities suspected of involvements in its weapons programs. 

The White House said it was extending the sanctions “to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States constituted by the actions of the Government of Syria in supporting terrorism, maintaining its then-existing occupation of Lebanon, pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, and undermining U.S. and international efforts with respect to the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq.”

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