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French Version

Syria switches from dollars to euros in its budgets

The Syrian government is to use euros instead of U.S. dollars in its budgets upon the decision of the U.S. Treasury that stipulates barring any transactions between American banks and the Commercial Bank of Syria.

The U.S. Treasury Department said Thursday that U.S. banks must close any accounts they have with the two Syrian banks, as part of an effort to crack down on terrorist financing. The order covers the Commercial Bank of Syria and its subsidiary, the Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank.

The Syrian government's decision is to cover its overdue exportation, importation and services payments and to protect the national economy.

Syria has switched all of the state's foreign currency transactions to euros from dollars upon political confrontations with the United States, the head of state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria Duraid Durgham said.

Durgham said, adding that this decision is important and necessary at a moment when the Americans are threatening Syria in a way that could complicate banking operations between Syria and European countries.

This decision represents the strong Syrian relation with the European Union, that is considered the first commercial partner to Syria, he said.

The United States has been heading international pressure on Syria for its alleged role in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and aiding the crisis in Iraq which Syria denies.

Syria has been under U.S. sanctions since May 2004, meaning it can not import American products other than food and medication.

Syria surprised world financial markets when it announced that it would stop dealing in dollars in all official institutions and in import-export contracts replacing them with euros in case the U.S. intensifies sanctions on Damascus.

Euros are also to be used in paying back sums owed by state institutions to foreign parties.

Finance Minister Mohammad al-Hussein said that this action comes in the framework of continuing pressures on Syria for political considerations, adding that Syria was not surprised by the American treasury decision.

Hussein added that the Central Bank of Syria, as any government bank, is implementing international laws against money laundry and support of terrorism.

He pointed out that all Iraqi government accounts were transferred to Iraq last September according to an Iraqi-Syrian understanding memorandum.

Hussein asserted that the Syrian Central Bank will continue in its transactions with its international partners and clients, adding that the bank is supported by the government.

Syrian governmental sources said that this decision is an attempt "to keep the Syrian economy away from the mercy of the American dollar," as American laws stipulate that any conversion into dollars must go through the American banking system.

U.S. threats against Syria would result in complicating the banking transactions and the transfer operations into the country from corresponding international banks in Europe.

Damascus,03 13 2006
The Daily Star
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