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Key US senator seeks overhaul of foreign-deal panel

Written by: Staff
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WASHINGTON, Mar 5 (Reuters) The secretive US government foreign investment review process that approved an Arab company's deal to assume management of terminals at six US ports is ''deeply flawed'' and should be revamped, a leading lawmaker said today.

Senate Homeland Security Chairman Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, said she and the panel's top Democrat, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, will introduce legislation next week to overhaul the process and give the lead to the Department of Homeland Security.

In an interview with ABC's ''This Week,'' Collins said national security agencies need a bigger voice in the process, which is now led by the Treasury Department.

''I think we need to scrap the committee, start again, constitute it within the Department of Homeland Security, have the secretary of Homeland Security chair it, have a member of the intelligence community on it, which is not the case now ...,'' Collins said.

She said Congress also needs to be consulted.

The deal approved by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States, or CFIUS, would allow state-owned Dubai Ports World of the United Arab Emirates to run terminal operations in key ports such as New York and New Jersey.

Those operations were part of the company's takeover of the global assets of Britain-based P&O.

News of the deal unleashed a political firestorm in the last few weeks, prompting the White House to agree to an additional 45-day inquiry in addition to the initial probe.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, the California Republican who heads the Armed Services Committee in the US House of Representatives, told the same ABC show he thought the decision could be reversed once President George W Bush gets more information.

''I think (CFIUS) looked at it from a very superficial level, and they didn't get the intelligence briefs that go to Dubai's activities to transship things like centrifuge parts,'' Hunter said. ''I think if the president gets that information ... I think we're going to see a turnaround.'' Bush has said security concerns were unwarranted because the UAE is a strong ally and has threatened to veto any legislation blocking the deal.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Sunday praised the UAE for its military cooperation with the United States.

''I think the policy debate is going to continue in public, and that's outside of my lane,'' he said on the ''Fox News Sunday'' show. ''What I can tell you is that military to military, which is where my lane is, that we could not have better cooperation from United Arab Emirates.

''They service our ships. They service more of our warships than any other port other than a U.S. port anywhere in the world. ... Everything we do with the UAE military is very positive, very friendly, very supportive and they've been very, very good partners,'' Pace said.

REUTERS CH KP2233

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