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Obama lifts some sanctions on Syria

WASHINGTON, July 27 (UPI) -- Damascus welcomes a Washington measure to ease economic sanctions on Syria pertaining to civilian aviation, the Syrian envoy to Washington said.

Imad Mustafa, the Syrian ambassador to Washington, said the embassy was informed that Washington had lifted economic sanctions related to civilian aviation and the export of communications equipment to Syria, the official Syrian Arab News Agency reports.

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The U.S. Congress passed the Syrian Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 to punish Damascus for its support of terrorism, occupation of Lebanon and for the pursuit of a controversial weapons program.

Mustafa said U.S. President Barack Obama had suspended several of the sanctions measures, noting more restrictions could be lifted in the future.

"We are focusing with President Obama's administration on using the U.S. president's executive authority to suspend the execution of the important articles in the sanctions law," he said.

Mustafa said the effort was part of a growing sign that Damascus was a vital player in the region. Obama has moved to restore U.S. relations in the Middle East as part of a broader policy move toward detente while Damascus pushes its own anti-isolationist efforts.

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George Mitchell, the U.S. special envoy to the region, was in Damascus during the weekend as part of a move by Washington to kick-start the Middle East peace process and improve bilateral ties with Syria.

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