President Bush said today he would veto any legislation coming out of Congress that would try to delay or stop the federally approved takeover of operations at six U.S. ports by a firm controlled by the government of the United Arab Emirates.
It would be the first time in his over-five-year presidency to use his veto pen.
Repeating what his representatives have said since controversy about the deal surfaced last week, Bush claimed the transfer of power to a company owned by the UAE would not jeopardize U.S. security.
The president told reporters upon returning to the White House today: “Our government has looked at this issue and looked at it carefully. This is a company that’s played by the rules.”
“After careful review by our government, I believe the transaction ought to go forward,” he added. “I want those who are questioning it to step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a Great British company. I am trying to conduct foreign policy now by saying to the people of the world, ‘We’ll treat you fairly.’”
As WorldNetDaily reported, a merger deal approved by the federal government has the company currently running the ports, London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, getting acquired by the Emirati firm, Dubai Ports World. UAE has known ties to terrorists and 9-11 hijackers, raising concerns about security issues at the ports involved: New York, Baltimore, New Jersey, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and at least two governors have spoken out against the deal, which is scheduled to go into effect March 2.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said today he will introduce legislation to delay approval of the deal.
“News that a Middle-East based firm is seeking to purchase the operating rights to several U.S. ports raise serious questions regarding the safety and security of our homeland. This decision should be put on hold while the administration conducts a more extensive review of this matter. Congress must also be involved in this process. I am requesting briefings on this deal,” said Frist, a 2008 presidential hopeful, in a statement.
“I’m not against foreign ownership,” said Frist, who spoke to reporters in Long Beach, Calif., “but my main concern is national security.”
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales addressed the issue today during a press conference on the indictment of three Ohio men accused of assisting terrorism on U.S. interests in Iraq.
“This is not a question about port security,” Gonzales said. “This is not a question about port ownership. This is a question about port operation. Obviously, as part of this process, we are very concerned about maintaining port security.”
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld also defended the deal, noting the UAE is a partner with the United States in the war on terror.
“This shouldn’t happen. It really boggles the mind,” Rachel Ehrenfeld, director of the American Center for Democracy told the New York Sun. She said the United Arab Emirates is “a big hub for all kinds of terrorist activities. … We know that terrorist money is being laundered there.”
The takeover agreement was OK’d by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a federal panel composed of the secretaries of 12 federal agencies. Dubai Ports World said in a statement the committee “thoroughly reviewed the potential transaction and concluded they had no objection.”
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