Bush Defends Port Deal

President Bush is defending a deal that would allow a company owned by the United Arab Emirates to manage commercial shipping operations at six major U.S. ports. Mr. Bush is facing opposition from both Republicans and Democrats who say the deal threatens national security.

President Bush says the more people learn about the transaction, the more they will be comforted that U.S. ports will be secure.

"People do not need to worry about security," he said. "This deal would not go forward if we were concerned about the security for the United States of America."

Republican leaders of both the Senate and the House of Representatives have expressed concern about the deal and are threatening legislation to block it.

President Bush has responded with a threat of his own: to veto any measure that would delay or disrupt the contract which was approved by officials from 12 federal agencies.

The controversy arose following the pending purchase of a British firm which now manages those port operations by Dubai Ports World, which is owned by the families who run the United Arab Emirates.

President Bush says opponents of the deal apparently believe it is alright for a British firm to manage those ports but not a company from the UAE which, he says, is also a valuable ally in the fight against terrorism.

"It' is really important we not send mixed messages to friends and allies around the world as we put together a coalition to fight this war on terror. And so, we will continue to talk to people in Congress and explain clearly why the decision was made," said Mr. Bush.

Critics say the UAE has a mixed record when it comes to fighting terrorism, as the UAE recognized the former Taleban government in Afghanistan and was the site for some of the planning for the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

President Bush did not learn about the port deal until it was already approved. The White House now admits it should have briefed members of Congress sooner.

In an effort to blunt bipartisan opposition to the deal, the Bush administration is focusing on the strength of bilateral relations with the UAE, which include operational support for the U.S. Air Force and Navy and participation in screening shipping containers before they are sent to the United States.

The White House says the UAE is fighting terrorists by exchanging information and cutting off their financing. A statement says the UAE is an important ally in Afghanistan and Iraq and was one of the first nations to offer financial assistance following Hurricane Katrina.



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