Congress rises up against UAE deal

Feb. 21, 2006 at 4:33 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. lawmakers Tuesday demanded more information on the controversial UAE ports deal.

The proposed contract would allow a state-owned company in the United Arab Emirates to take control of six U.S. ports.

UAE-based Dubai Ports World has proposed buying British firm Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. If the deal goes through, DP World would take over terminal operations at the U.S. ports of New York, New Jersey, New Orleans, Miami, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Treasury Secretary John Snow asking for a briefing on why the sale has been allowed to proceed. Committee Chairman Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and ranking member Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., said the transaction "would seem to demand a more rigorous assessment, if not a full investigation," reported Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., called on the Bush administration Tuesday to at least temporarily stop the sale. "If the administration cannot delay the process, I plan on introducing legislation to ensure that the deal is placed on hold until this decision gets a more thorough review," Frist said in a statement.

The sale has serious implications for homeland security, said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee. Thompson called for three hearings on foreign ownership issues in a letter to committee chairman Rep. Peter King, D-N.Y.

"Having the full committee convene on this is necessary, given the gravity of the issue and its application to core homeland security efforts," Thompson wrote.

The interagency Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States, on which the Homeland Security Department sits, has approved the sale. But news of the deal has outraged many members of Congress.

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