In the Iranian pavilion, stalls displaying delicate silk carpets stand next to others advertising industrial and agricultural equipment. AFP / Maher AL MOUNES
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Syria's government is showcasing its ambitions for economic recovery and engagement with foreign business at a trade fair, but glimpses of devastated districts nearby show how far off full-scale reconstruction remains. While companies from Syria's allies Russia and Iran are present in numbers, others are sparse, deterred by Western sanctions and continued ostracism of Syria as it prepares to attack the last rebel bastion in a 7-year-old civil war.Western countries have said they will not aid reconstruction without a political solution to the conflict, but as Assad reclaims more rebel territory with Russian and Iranian backing, the prospect of any deal with opposition groups is receding.They have also said they will not ease sanctions; the difficulty of trading with Syria is a constant refrain among companies at the trade fair.Despite that, Syrian businesses appear to be finding ways around the sanctions and growing, as the past few years of army advances have brought Syria's most populous areas back into a large contiguous zone of government control.
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