US President Barack Obama has ordered the continuation of sanctions imposed in 2004 aginst Syria, telling Congress that Damascus still supports terrorist groups and is seeking weapons of mass destruction and has impeded progress in Iraq.
Obama's decision keeps a series of diplomatic and financial sanctions alive for at least one more year and comes despite the new administration's efforts to improve relations with Syria.
Two US State Department officials visited Damascus this week for talks, and Israel is in the process of pursuing peace talks with Syria.
US State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the decision to keep the sanctions alive "shows you that we still have some very serious concerns about Syrian behaviour and activity in the world".
"But we're willing to engage them and see if they are serious about addressing some of these concerns," Wood said.
The sanctions include a ban on most US exports to Syria. Some individual terrorism suspects are barred from access to US banks.
In a letter to Congress, Obama said that Syria still threatens US national security by "supporting terrorism, pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missile programs and undermining US and international efforts with respect to the stabilisation and reconstruction of Iraq".