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Senator: Dubai to give up control of U.S. ports

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Deal ran into tough opposition in Senate over security concerns
MSNBC staff and news service reports
Updated: 2:03 p.m. ET March 9, 2006
WASHINGTON - A top Senate Republican says a Dubai-owned company has decided to give up its management stake in some U.S. ports.

The news came from John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee and a member of the Senate committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, as it became clear that allowing Dubai Ports World, a company owned by the United Arab Emirates, to take control of some U.S. port operations faced certain defeat in Congress.

Earlier, the GOP leadership delivered that assessment to President Bush in a private meeting at the White House.

Warner, who had expressed some support for the deal, also has been deeply involved in the negotiations.

He delivered the news to colleagues by taking to the Senate floor to read a press release from the company disclosing its plans.

“Because of the strong relationship between the United Arab Emirates and the United States and to preserve that relationship, DP World has decided to transfer fully the U.S. operation of P&O Operations North America to a United States entity,” DP World’s chief operating officer, Edward H. Bilkey, said in the statement.

It was not immediately clear whether the announcement would be enough to cool widespread sentiment in Congress to pass legislation blocking the deal, which has become an election-year nightmare for Republicans.

Political angst
Developments in the legislature underscored the political concern among congressional Republicans in the run-up to midterm elections. The GOP has long held an advantage over Democrats on issues relating to national security and the war on terrorism, but pollsters from both parties agree the gap has narrowed significantly in the past few weeks.

At the same time, individual Republicans have said their constituents are calling and writing to express overwhelming opposition to the port arrangement.

Bush has defended the deal, on grounds of open, free trade, and, he says, because the United Arab Emirates has been a strong ally in the war on terror.

At the White House earlier, spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters, “Our focus is on continuing to work with Congress to move forward on this issue. ... There are members who have concerns. We believe it’s important to work with Congress to address those concerns, and find a way forward.”

Increasingly, the only way forward seemed to be a veto or a decision by the company itself to shed its plans.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Posted by loni on 03/09 at 02:10 PM in News

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