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Dubai Ports ready to wait for U.S. security review

By Staff
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DUBAI, Feb 26: Dubai Ports is ready to wait for a security review before taking control of six US ports to allay fears that have unleashed a political storm in the United States, a source close to the firm said today.

In Washington, a US senator said Dubai Ports and Britain's P&O had voluntarily requested a 45-day US national security review of their deal.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, a Virginia Republican, told NBC's ''Meet the Press'' he had a copy of an agreement that was being sent to the Bush administration and members of Congress by the two firms requesting the review.

Republican leaders had been discussing asking the state-owned company to seek the 45-day security review to fend off critics who say the deal could harm U.S. national security.

Dubai Ports has agreed to pay .8 billion for P&O, which owns terminal operations at major U.S. ports.

White House officials have said there are no plans to reopen a completed review of the American part of the deal. But the source said the company would to try to address the concerns of lawmakers who have been planning legislation to block it.

''Dubai Ports World is ready to defer taking over the operations at the U.S. ports for 45 days to allow time for a security review,'' the source told Reuters in Dubai.

Dubai Ports said last week it would proceed with the takeover of P&O on March 2 -- making it the world's third-largest port operator -- but would not immediately assume management of the U.S. port terminals.

But company officials say they want to minimise delays.

''This is not a delay of the takeover itself,'' said the source.

Democrats and some members of President George W. Bush's Republican Party have attacked the administration for approving the acquisition, citing evidence that two of the Sept. 11 hijackers came from the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is a part, and that al Qaeda has received funding via UAE banks.

Bush has vowed to veto any legislation to block the deal and says the United Arab Emirates is a partner in combating terrorism. U.S. warships frequently call at the UAE's Jebel Ali port, which is managed by Dubai Ports.

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Dubai Ports Chairman Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem played up the company's record on security at a new oil terminal used by the U.S. Navy in Djibouti, a strategically important Horn of Africa country that hosts U.S. troops hunting Islamic militants.

''In fact we have gone beyond the security measures required by regulations,'' he said at the inauguration of the Doraleh terminal, which is managed by Dubai Ports and serves the U.S.and French navies as well as commercial customers.

''The fact that the Navy still is an important customer here speaks volumes for the initiative we have in place,'' Bin Sulayem told the gathering on the quays beside the guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg.

He made no reference to the furore in the United States.

Dubai Ports gave several security assurances to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States before it approved the transaction last month.

The committee is an inter-agency panel led by the U.S.Treasury Department that examines national security implications of foreign takeovers of U.S. assets.

Bush and members of his administration have defended its review as thorough, but the White House has said Congress should have been briefed sooner. At least three congressional hearings are set for next week.

Reuters

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