WASHINGTON – Bush administration officials opened the door Thursday to a delay in allowing a state-owned United Arab Emirates company to assume significant operations at six U.S. ports as lawmakers pushed for a new 45-day investigation of the deal.
The company, Dubai Ports World, signaled to Congress that it, too, would be willing to agree to a delay while lawmakers review the business deal that’s supposed to be completed in early March.
“People don’t need to worry about security,” President Bush said shortly before administration officials who approved the transaction told a Senate committee their 90-day review did not turn up a single national security concern to justify blocking it.
Elsewhere, New Jersey sued in federal court to block the UAE company from taking over operations at the Port Newark container terminal until the federal government investigates possible security risks. The owner of the busy shipping center, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said it also has security concerns about the takeover and plans to file a lawsuit today to terminate the firm’s lease at the port.
As the political furor over the port deal persisted, Karl Rove, the president’s chief political adviser, said Bush was willing to accept a slight delay in Dubai Ports World’s purchase of terminal leases and other operations at six U.S. ports from a British company.
“There’s no requirement that it close, you know, immediately after” a British government review of the $6.8 billion purchase is completed next week, Rove said on Fox Radio’s “Tony Snow Show.” “What is important is that members of Congress have the time to get fully briefed on this.”
White House Homeland Security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend said the UAE’s cooperation in the fight against terrorism has changed since Sept. 11.
“They have been critical allies in Afghanistan,” she said at a news conference. “They have been critical allies in fighting the financial war against terror. They’ve been critical allies in terms of our military-to-military relationship.”