DAMASCUS, Syria, May 16 (UPI) -- The Arab economic boycott of Israel is losing steam as many Arab countries, especially the oil-rich Gulf states, are evading embargo.
A source close to the four-day conference of the Arab Boycott Bureau convening in Damascus said Tuesday "the majority of Arab countries are evading the boycott, notably the Gulf states and especially Saudi Arabia."
Speaking to United Press International on condition of anonymity, the source said "an important reason for not observing the boycott rules by the Arab countries is the growing U.S. pressures in the direction of normalization with the Jewish state."
Washington backs Israel in its opposition to the Arab boycott on the grounds that it contradicted the basis of the U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace process.
The Arab Boycott Bureau suspended its activities in the early 1990's to give Israel a chance to engage in the peace process with the Arabs.
But after the peace process reached a deadlock, the Arab League-affiliated Bureau resumed its semi-annual meetings in 2001, though its resolutions remained largely formal and ineffective.
"The boycott deteriorated a lot, regressed and even almost collapsed... We should not lie on each other, because the boycott is quasi... paralyzed," the source said.
He warned Arab countries "not to give up this efficient arm which is the only weapon remaining in the hands of the Arabs even if they did not know how to use it."
The source projected that the conference will result in blacklisting a handful of companies while removing five. He said the companies which will be placed on the Bureau's black list are American, French, Italian and Swiss.
Under the rules of the Damascus-based Bureau, companies which deal with Israeli firms, have Israeli capital and export to Israel through a third party are placed on the black list.