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Syria Criticize Sanctions, Accuses US for 'Creating Instability' - 2004-05-12

Syrian officials Wednesday dismissed new U.S. sanctions imposed on Damascus for allegedly supporting terrorism, and accused Washington of poisoning relations with the Arab world. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accused the United States Wednesday of encouraging terrorism and instability. His comments were published a day after President Bush imposed economic sanctions against Syria, accusing the government, among other things, of supporting terrorism.

The Syrian president said the United States should help fight terrorism in Iraq and in the Palestinian territories by adopting a fair political position that creates cultural understanding and economic development.

Mr. Assad was quoted in Spanish and Italian newspapers El Paris, La Republica as saying America had become a source of instability instead of stability. And, he said the war in Iraq had created a hatred that is resonating with terrorists.

Political analyst and professor at Damascus University in Syria, Imad Shouebi, says the U.S. decision to impose economic sanctions will not help the war against terror.

"The role of Syria in the campaign against terror will be damaged, because Syria is the first state, which had made a help to the United States of America to prevent many victims from al-Qaida," he said. "Then, if this is the reaction of the United States of America, it will be frustrating to many Syrians."

The United States accuses the Syrian government of supporting terrorism, seeking weapons of mass destruction and failing to stop foreign fighters from using Syrian soil to enter Iraq.

The sanctions include a ban on U.S. exports to Syria, with the exception of such things as food and medicine. Exports to the country were estimated to be worth about $100 million a year. The sanctions also include freezing the assets of Syrians living in the United States, who are suspected of terrorism, and a ban on flights to and from Syria.

Several senior Syrian officials called the sanctions unjust, and said they would not have any effect on Syria's policies.