DAMASCUS, Syria, (AP) – The U.S. Treasury Department has authorized the transfer of $500,000 to a Syrian charity in a sign that it is easing its economic embargo on the country, Syria’s ambassador to Washington said Sunday.
Imad Mustafa told reporters that the money to the Children with Cancer Support Association was raised by Syrians living in the United States. There was no immediate comment from the Treasury Department.
The U.S., under former President George W. Bush, imposed a variety of sanctions on Syria to punish a government it accused of allowing foreign fighters to cross into Iraq, as well as supporting militant groups in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.
One measure banned U.S. exports to Syria except for food and medicine.
Syria has denied allowing fighters to cross into Iraq, while saying it is impossible to control its extensive desert border.
If the money transfer is confirmed, it would be another sign that the U.S. is easing some sanctions. A Syrian newspaper reported last week that the U.S. Trade Department has agreed to provide spare parts for two Syrian-owned Boeing 747 aircraft out of service for years.
President Barack Obama has been looking for ways to repair the U.S. image abroad and engage governments that have opposed U.S. policies.
Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will meet with Syria’s president this week as part of a regional tour that began Sunday in Egypt.
Kerry told reporters after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that the U.S. was eager to talk to Syria. He challenged Syria to demonstrate its seriousness about encouraging peace and stability in the Middle East.
Syrian President Bashar Assad last month said he also wants a dialogue with Washington, but without preconditions.