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US Lawmakers Demand Review of UAE Ports Deal


U.S. lawmakers are concerned that a recent sale giving a company in the United Arab Emirates control over terminals at six U.S. ports would jeopardize national security, and are asking the Bush administration to review the transaction.

At issue is the $5.8 billion sale of the London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation company - a private firm which had run commercial operations at six key U.S. ports - to the government-owned Dubai Ports World.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which includes officials from the Departments of Defense, Justice, State, Commerce and Homeland Security, approved the sale.

But there is concern on Capitol Hill that the deal could undermine national security.

A group of senators and House members from both political parties held a news conference Thursday to call on the Bush administration to review the sale.

Although the administration considers the UAE an ally in the war on terror, critics note the country served as a base for the hijackers who took part in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. They also argue the UAE was one of only three countries that recognized the Taleban as Afghanistan's legitimate government.

Congressman Vito Fosella, a New York Republican, is among those who are concerned about Dubai Ports World taking significant control over the U.S. ports, which include New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

"I just think that this decision on its face is really inconsistent with American efforts to enhance homeland security," he said. "At a time when America is leading the world in the war on terrorism and spending billions of dollars to secure our homeland, I cannot see and understand how we can cede control of strategic assets to foreign nations with spotty records on terrorism."

"Outsourcing the operation of our largest ports to a country with a dubious record on terrorism is a homeland security accident waiting to happen," said Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat.

Senator Schumer says if the administration does not put lawmakers' concerns to rest, Congress could move to cancel the sale through legislation.