updated 5/10/2009 2:02:10 PM ET 2009-05-10T18:02:10

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 President Barack Obama felt compelled to renew the sanctions, which were first imposed by George W. Bush's administration four years ago as diplomatic contact dwindled. The decision came even as two U.S. envoys were in the Syrian capital exploring prospects for improved relations.

Syria's Tishrin newspaper said U.S. policies of isolation, blockades and sanctions adopted by the former U.S. 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.

The U.S. announcement coincided with renewed high-level diplomatic contacts with Damascus. Two U.S. envoys, including the State Department's top Middle East official, Jeffrey Feltman, were in Damascus last week for meetings with top officials.

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.

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. The Obama administration is also trying to open a dialogue with Iran, a Syrian ally, after decades of diplomatic stalemate.

Tishrin said Syria is engaged in an ongoing dialogue with the U.S. "in a real test of the nature of U.S. intentions." It said Damascus is hopeful that the Obama administration will not cave to Israeli pressures or maintain the old policies against Syria.

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 U.S. operations in Iraq. Syria denies the allegations.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments