U.S. to ease sanctions on Syria for jet transfer

December 07, 1993|By New York Times News Service

AMMAN, Jordan -- The United States has decided to relax sanctions against Syria to allow the transfer of three American-made commercial aircraft to Syria from Kuwait, administration officials said yesterday.

The officials said that Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher formally told Syria's President Hafez el Assad of the U.S. decision, which has not been publicly disclosed, in a meeting in Damascus on Sunday. The sanctions were originally imposed to punish Syria for what Washington regarded as its support for terrorism.

The U.S. decision was disclosed after Syria announced a similar gesture of goodwill on Sunday, in which Mr. Assad agreed to help investigate the fate of Israeli servicemen missing in Lebanon and pledged to issue exit visas to Syrian Jews. But senior U.S. officials maintained that there was no linkage between the decision on the jets and Mr. Assad's actions, say

ing that the plane action had been in the works for some months.

Mr. Christopher has been traveling in the Middle East to encourage the negotiations involving Israel, the Palestinians and Arab countries.

At a meeting here with Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Mr. Arafat appealed to the United States to press Israel to make concessions that would allow plans for Palestinian self-rule in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho to move forward on schedule on Monday.

But Mr. Christopher pledged only to present the Palestinian concerns to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel when they meet in Jerusalem today.

Senior administration officials maintained that the decision on the transfer of planes to Syria did not mean that the United States intended to remove Syria from its list of countries supporting terrorism.

Aides to Mr. Christopher said that the move illustrates that the United States is willing to make positive gestures as a way of inducing Syria to make peace with Israel and to improve its own relations with Damascus.

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