Syria's ambassador to Washington said Sunday that the U.S. Treasury Department has authorized the transfer of $500,000 to a Syrian charity in a sign that it is easing its economic embargo on the country. Imad Mustafa told reporters in Syria's capital that the money to the Children with Cancer Support Association was raised by Syrians living in the U.S. There was no immediate comment from the Treasury Department. The U.S., under former President George W. Bush, imposed a variety of sanctions on Syria in an effort to punish a government it accused of allowing foreign fighters to cross into Iraq as well as supporting militant groups in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. In one of those measures, signed in 2004, Bush banned U.S. exports to Syria except for food and medicine. If the money transfer is confirmed, it would be another sign that the U.S. is easing some sanctions. A Syrian newspaper reported last week that the U.S. Trade Department has agreed to provide spare parts for two Syrian-owned Boeing 747 aircraft out of service for years. President Barack Obama has been looking for ways to repair the U.S. image abroad and engage governments that have opposed U.S. policies. U.S. Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will meet with Syria's president this week as part of a regional tour that began in Egypt Sunday. Kerry on Sunday challenged Syria to demonstrate its seriousness about encouraging peace and stability in the Middle East.