NEW YORK (AFP) -The Dubai-based company aiming to take over management of key US ports has agreed to a US review, a prominent senator said, averting a showdown with a US Congress suspicious about security and angry at not being consulted.
John Warner, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told NBC television that Dubai Ports World would seek a 45-day US review of its purchase of P and O, the British company which currently manages the ports.
He said the deal had been hammered out with DPW’s chief operating officer, and the agreement was being sent to the US administration and Congress.
Warner said the request for the review was made jointly by P and O and DPW, which is owned by the United Arab Emirates.
“It really spells out unequivocally the willingness of this country — to this company to give every means of support to help work this thing out,” he said.
“We continue to take voluntary steps to assure people that the security of the US will not be harmed as a result of this acquisition,” DP World’s chief operating officer, Ted Bilkey, said separately.
But three Democratic senators said the request for a delay, while welcome, would not stop them introducing legislation this week for Congress to weigh in.
DPW had already said late Thursday that it would hold off on US aspects of the 6.8-billion-dollar global deal while the administration of US President George W. Bush consults outraged Republicans and Democrats.
The proposed deal has angered critics who say it threatens US port security and that the White House failed properly to consult Congress.
Opponents have pointed out that some of the financing for the September 11, 2001 attacks was funneled through the UAE.
Bush has threatened to veto any efforts in Congress to delay the deal, but lawmakers say they have sufficient numbers to override a veto.
The affected ports are in New York; Miami; Newark, New Jersey; Baltimore, Maryland; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton said legislation would ensure that when the review period is over, Congress could make its own decision on the proposed buyout, “giving us the opportunity to exercise our independent judgment.”
Senator Chuck Schumer said he was sure there would be bipartisan support for the measure, which he would introduce Monday.
“It will not only pass, but it will pass by a veto-proof majority,” the New York Democrat said, adding that the 45-day investigation was “necessary but not sufficient” to allay lawmakers’ concerns.
A US Treasury committee on foreign investment (CFIUS), which checks for national security concerns in such transactions, welcomed DPW’s move for a review.
“Upon receipt of the new notification, CFIUS will promptly initiate the review process and fulfill DPW’s request for a full investigation,” it said in a statement.
The panel said it had already conducted a nearly three-month investigation into the deal last year to check for national security concerns.
Meanwhile White House National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley reiterated Bush’s stance Sunday.
“He thinks that there are not outstanding national security concerns that need to be addressed and that this deal needs to go forward,” Hadley said in an interview with CBS.
“There isn’t a security risk. This needs to be made clear to the Congress and to the American people. And we need a little time to do that.”
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, said “I hope DP World will submit its request for CFIUS review as soon as possible.
“It is my expectation that CFIUS agree to DP World’s request to begin a full 45-day review to bring a sharp and comprehensive focus on this deal and how it impacts our national and homeland security.
“If CFIUS acts as I expect, I will recommend to the Senate that we await the outcome of that work before deciding on any legislative steps related to the DP World deal,” Frist said.