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Published:February 21st, 2006 10:46 EST
Ports Take-Over Causes Uproar

Ports Take-Over Causes Uproar

By Maria Grella

A transaction permitting an international port company to take over six major U.S. seaports has politicians up in arms.  The British company, Dubai Ports World, is a state owned business based in United Arab Emirates, and will run ports in Baltimore, Miami, New Jersey, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and New York. 

Congressional representatives, governors and representatives doubt whether the decision is a good one.  Tennessee’s Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist asked the Bush administration to disallow the agreement until further investigation can be done. 

“The decision to finalize this deal should be put on hold until the administration conducts a more extensive review of this matter.”  Frist continued his caution with promising to introduce legislation to force the deal to be on hold until it is further researched.  While conducting a fact-finding tour on port security and immigration issues, Frist spoke to Long Beach, California reporters, ensuring he was not discriminating towards foreign businesses.  “I’m not against foreign ownership but my main concern is national security.”

Other lawmakers agree with Frist’s move.  Republican governors, NY’s George Pataki and MD’s Robert Ehrlich, may attempt canceling lease arrangements in their respective states because of their concerns.  NY’s Republican Representative Peter King and Democratic Senator Charles Schumer have also vowed to block the plans with emergency legislation.

“Ensuring the security of New York’s port operations is paramount,” Pataki released in a statement.  “I have directed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to explore all legal options that may be available to them.” 

Ehrlich was troubled that Maryland was not given the heads up from the Bush administration regarding the Arab company’s port agreement.  “We needed to know before this was a done deal.”  Prior advanced notice was necessary given the security in post September 11th times.

The Bush administration did receive some support from an unlikely source.  Former President Carter, a critic against President Bush, gave surprising agreement in a CNN interview.  “My presumption is, and my belief is, that the president and his secretary of state and the Defense Department and others have adequately cleared the Dubai government organization to manage these ports.  I don’t think there’s any particular threat to our security.”

Protests and fears over the improper protection the six major ports have added to critic’s notes.  Some of the 9/11 hijackers used the United Arab Emirates as their base, adding that the UAE was also used by a Pakistani scientist to smuggle nuclear components to Iran, North Korea, and Libya.

The Bush administration has insisted that those issues had already received a full review by the Treasury Department.  The chief spokesperson, Tony Fratto, stated that all concerns have been addressed and the panel came to a unanimous decision to go forward with the take-over on March 2.  Regarding whether the decision would be a popular one, he said, “Politics should not play a role in the review process.”  Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security Secretary, asserted that the administration made sure that the UAE agreed to conditions in order to ensure national security.