- The Washington Times - Monday, February 27, 2006

Congressmen of both parties yesterday won a 45-day review of security details for a United Arab Emirates company to operate terminals in six U.S. seaports.

The agreement by DP World, plus the Dubai-based port operator’s concession to segregate terminal operations to a London business until the $6.8 billion agreement is concluded, satisfied both Republicans and Democrats threatening legislation to quash the deal.

“We hope that voluntarily agreeing to further scrutiny demonstrates our commitment to our long-standing relationship with the United States,” said Edward H. Bilkey, chief operating officer of DP World.

The extended review will give the White House time to persuade Congress to back the Bush administration’s approval of the sale of Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co., an old-line British company which operates major American ports, to DP World, which is owned by the royal family of Dubai.

“We believe that anything that permits there to be additional time so that more people can learn the facts as we learned them is to the better,” said White House homeland security adviser, Frances Fragos Townsend.

Said Stephen J. Hadley, White House national security adviser: “The president is confident that when Congress really understands the transaction, they will conclude, as he did, that it’s the right thing to do.”

However, officials of states where three of the public ports are located have filed lawsuits to block the deal, which encompasses 50 terminals in six ports, at New York, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami, Philadelphia and Newark, N.J.

Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, who assisted in the negotiations, announced the agreement. “It really spells out unequivocally the willingness of this country [and] this company to give every means of support to help work this thing out,” Mr. Warner told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, called it a good step. “There has to be a full and thorough investigation, because no investigation has been conducted up till now,” he said.

Mr. King had introduced legislation to put the deal on hold pending a review, but he told NBC yesterday, “I don’t see any purpose to go forward and force a confrontation with the president, because the main purpose of the legislation is to bring about this 45-day investigation.”

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat and an early critic of the deal, called the company’s overture “a significant step forward,” and said he may not “see any need for legislation or further conflict.” But he added: “The devil is in the details.

“If the report is completed and kept secret and only given to the president, who has already come out for the deal, it will not reassure Americans.”

Mr. Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has been the Arab company’s leading proponent on Capitol Hill, and said yesterday that DP World has an “excellent record” in more than 30 nations.

“This is a bigger issue for our country than just this commercial agreement. We’re in a global situation. It is diplomacy. It is our economic standing in the world. And it is the military security. We are using facilities in the UAE today, docking over 500 ships, American warships last year, using their airfields to perform support missions for both Afghanistan and Iraq.”

“We cannot treat this company as a second-class citizen.”

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, called opposition to the sale of the London-based company “near-hysteria.”

However, Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he questioned the Treasury Department process that approved the deal.

Citing a Government Accountability Office study released in September, Mr. Graham said the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a Treasury panel, narrowly defines what is a threat to national security.

The study further said the committee’s reluctance to initiate the 45-day investigation, due in part to concerns about negative effects on U.S. open investment policy, limits the time available for member agencies to analyze security concerns.

“This process has been flawed from the beginning, and it needs to be fixed,” Mr. Graham said.

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