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U.S. tries tech as Syrian diplomatic tool

Druze residents of the Golan Heights hold a Syrian flag during a rally in the Druze village of Majdal Shams, Israel.

by Janet Babin

The Syrian Embassy says the trip's purpose is to tap into its growing IT market. And the high-tech firms on the trip -- Dell, Cisco and others -- would certainly benefit from doing business with Syria. Right now, they can't because of U.S. sanctions.

Edward Djerejian, a former U.S. Ambassador to Syria now a director of the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, says the U.S. is betting IT could be a more effective diplomatic tool than sanctions. "There is a very burgeoning information generation in Syria," he says, "especially in the universities, amongst the youth and young businessmen."

But the high-tech mission is controversial, says Princeton professor Dan Kurtzer served as U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt. "There are some dangers in providing access to advance technology to a country that is producing weapons of mass destruction and still remains in a state of enmity with Israel," he says.

Some human rights groups and Republican lawmakers oppose the trade mission.

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