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US says ports would have been safer under Dubai

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NEW YORK, Mar 23 (Reuters) US ports would have been safer with an Arab company running the terminals than they will be now that a political firestorm killed the deal, the chief of US homeland security said today.

Dubai Ports World of United Arab Emirates was about to take over terminals at six major US ports but decided earlier this month to transfer those operations to a US entity after bipartisan opposition from the US Congress.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff dismissed the security concerns raised by opponents of the deal all along and went a step further today in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

''The irony of this is, that had the deal gone forward, we would have had greater ability to impose a security regime worldwide on the company than we have now,'' Chertoff said.

He did not explain the security measures.

Chertoff regretted the political opposition and said similar events in the future would jeopardize the US economy, not security.

''It's clear to me from a public messaging standpoint, we dropped the ball,'' Chertoff said. ''It may be that it was a classic case of people who knew the facts weren't paying enough attention to the perception of the facts.'' Reuters DH VP0325

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