Syria Preparing Anti-U.S. Sanctions

Syria (search) is preparing a law that would prohibit trade dealings with the United States in response to U.S. sanctions imposed on the Arab country last month, Syrian legislators said Saturday.

More than 130 members of the 250-seat legislature have prepared a draft of the "America Accountability Act" that would impose "strict sanctions" on American interests in Syria.

In a statement faxed to The Associated Press in Damascus (search), parliament officials said the draft law is a response to "Washington's policy in the region and its unlimited support and bias for Israeli policies and practices and to the Syria Accountability Act (search)."

The Syria Accountability Act is a U.S. law passed last year that calls for sanctions against Syria for its alleged support of terrorism. Syria denies the U.S. claims and says the sanctions are political.

Muhammad Habash, a lawmaker with moderate Islamic affiliations who is one of the campaigners for the draft law, said the law was meant to maintain the dignity of Syrians.

"We are not simple-minded to the degree that we imagine we can affect the great American economy," he said. "But we are able to maintain our dignity and slap the Americans so they know that if they continue with their arrogant policies, people everywhere around the globe will spit at them."

In May, President Bush banned all U.S. exports to Syria except for food and medicine, and banned Syrian flights to and from the United States after long-standing complaints that Syria was supporting terrorism and undermining U.S. efforts in Iraq.

The sanctions were based on the Syria Accountability Act.

The parliament statement said lawmakers would submit the draft law for a vote June 27 during a Parliament session in which Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara will explain the Syrian government's rationale for imposing the sanctions. The statement said the law was expected to pass overwhelmingly.

It would have to be ratified by President Bashar Assad before becoming law.

The statement did not give details on the nature of the sanctions Syria will impose.

Lawmaker Suleiman Haddad said the sanctions may be in the form of boycotting American goods but would not be a complete boycott of the United States, though he said some members of parliament supported that option.

"We in Syria believe that there is still a thread between us and America," Haddad said in a telephone interview Saturday. He said the sanctions would not impose restrictions on U.S. companies working in his country.

Trade between the United States and Syria amounts to $300 million a year. Several U.S. companies operate in Syria, which in the last year has signed oil-exploration deals with American companies worth a total of $34 million.

The U.S. sanctions imposed under the Syria Accountability Act also authorize the Treasury Department to freeze the assets of Syrian nationals and entities involved in terrorism. They also restrict relations between U.S. banks and the Syrian national banks.