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Published:February 24th, 2006 07:17 EST
Controversial Ports Deal Postponed

Controversial Ports Deal Postponed

By Maria Grella

The Arab company that was to be in charge of six major U.S. seaports has offered to postpone the impending take-over for March 2 in order to ease the minds of skeptical White House members.  The new understanding is that UAE agrees not to go through with the deal pending further discussion with the administration and Congress, leaving existing American and British companies to continue to oversee operations.

Edward H. Bilkey, a senior executive for Dubai Ports, expressed his puzzlement over America`s attitude.  The reaction in the United States has occurred in no other country in the world.  We need to understand the concerns of the people in the U.S. who are worried about this transaction and make sure that they are addressed to the benefit of all parties. "  He also added that it was unreasonable " and impractical " to close the entire global transaction.

Many politicians were unconvinced that the UAE was thoroughly investigated, putting President Bush on the defense.  When first announced, the Bush administration was attacked by lawmakers, some threatening to take legal action to prevent the deal from going through.  Meanwhile, President Bush has claimed the company as an ally, and has promised to veto any measures taken to prevent the sale.  He stated that security is not to be worried about. 

This wouldn`t be going forward if we weren`t certain that our ports would be secure.  The more people learn about the transaction that has been scrutinized and approved by my government, the more they`ll be comforted that our ports will be secure. "

The White House mentioned how the United Arab Emirates had contributed $100 million for Hurricane Katrina victims, nearly four times as much as all other countries combined.  It was also stated that the deal and the help-money received had no connection.

NY Democratic Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is pushing for a broader investigation of any potential terrorism risks.  In the first Senate oversight hearing, she had accused the Bush administration of ignoring federal law that requires extensive reviews involving sales to government owned companies. Robert Kimmitt, deputy secretary at the Treasury Department, said, We didn`t ignore the law.  Concerns were raised.  They were resolved. "

A classified intelligence report has come into question, regarding its capability.  Analysts working under the U.S. director of national intelligence put the assessment together in four weeks last November.  Democratic Maryland Senator Carl Levin wondered if the possible link between the UAE and Osama Bin Laden prior to 9/11 was examined.  Levin continued to say that such questions were documented in the 9/11 Commission report and though the UAE had taken some measures in antiterrorism, that was not the case a few years ago. 

White House Homeland Security Advisor Frances Fragos Townsend told reporters that the UAE have been allies in Afghanistan since September 11.  They`ve been critical allies in terms or our military-to-military relationship. "

Though some members of Congress concur with the postponing, others are still leery.  NY Rep. Peter King, one of the critics, described the offer as definitely a positive step ", but stated that President Bush must reveal details regarding the review and approval of the agreement.  Some skeptics see this as a time-out move.  NY Democratic Senator Charles Schumer said, a simple cooling off period will not allay our concerns. "  NY Republican Rep. Vito Fosella agreed, saying it was imperative for the administration to explain why it has concluded the deal is safe.