Armed Services chairman opposes port deal

March 3, 2006 at 9:27 AM
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WASHINGTON, March 3 (UPI) -- A top Republican has declared opposition to allowing a Dubai government-owned company to assume control of operations at U.S. ports.

House Armed Services Committee Duncan Hunter said the United Arab Emirates has a "terrifying" record of allowing the transshipment of nuclear materials and weapons of mass destruction through its country to Pakistan, Iran and other countries.

The controversial deal will give Dubai Port World, Inc. control over P&O North America, a shipping and port terminal operator with a presence in 21 American ports on the East and Gulf Coast. P&O runs public port terminals -- where cargo is loaded and unloaded -- in at least six major U.S. ports.

The $6.8 billion takeover is now expected to be complete by next week, despite an ongoing 45-day security investigation by the U.S. government to address concerns about the company's ownership and possible vulnerability to terrorist infiltration.

The White House's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States approved the deal in January without conducting the 45-day investigation required by law. White House officials said the investigation is only required if members of the committee raise national security concerns.

Hunter said that in 2003, despite U.S. protests, United Arab Emirates customs officials allowed 66 American high-speed electrical switches, which can be used for detonating nuclear weapons, to be sent to a Pakistani businessman with ties to the Pakistani military.

"Dubai can't be trusted with our critical infrastructure. United Arab Emirates officials have been instrumental in the transshipment of nuclear materials and weapons of mass destruction components," said Hunter. "To those who say my views smack of protectionism, I say: America is worth protecting."

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