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Thursday, January 31, 2008       Free Headline Alerts

U.S. sells Syria dual-use tech that could be used by Iran

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration has approved the sale of advanced dual-use computers to Syria.

"It's a major piece of equipment and is being given to an ally that could use it for military purposes as well as share it with Iran," an official said.

The export, disclosed by the U.S. television network Fox, was approved despite U.S. sanctions on Damascus of military and advanced dual-use systems. Syria, deemed a terrorist sponsor, has been in the same category as Iran and North Korea.

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Officials said the State Department has provided a license for the sale of advanced computers for a Syrian border surveillance program, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the systems were being provided through a United Nations program that could significantly enhance Syria's military capabilities.

In 2004, President George Bush signed legislation to severely restrict technology exports to Syria, deemed a gateway of Al Qaida for the war against the U.S. military in neighboring Iraq. But the legislation allowed the president to waive sanctions on grounds of U.S. national security.

Officials said the U.S. firm Cisco would supply computers and networking equipment to Syria under UN program. They said Syria would receive about $2.2 million in equipment under a program termed "Modernization of Syrian Customs Directorate," launched in 2005 and meant to be completed in early 2008.

Cisco was granted a license by the U.S. Commerce Department to sell the computers to Syria in September 2006. The UN has confirmed the sale while the Commerce Department has not responded to the report.

A federal investigation has determined that the U.S. Defense Department approved the export of spare parts of the F-14 fighter-jet to front companies for Iran. The aircraft parts as well as other U.S. military equipment were said to have been purchased by brokers for China and then relayed to Teheran.

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