Presidential press secretary Scott McClellan today downplayed links between the United Arab Emirates, the nation set to take over control of six major U.S. ports next week as part of a Bush-approved merger deal, and the September 11 terrorist attacks.

In today’s White House press briefing, WND asked McClellan about the 9-11 commission’s report.

“Didn’t the 9-11 commission report document how al-Qaida and the 9-11 terrorists used Dubai as a banking facility, as well as a country of transit?” asked WND.

Responded McClellan: “You can go look at the 9-11 commission report and see what it spells out. I don’t think that issue is what we’re talking about here.”

The spokesman had fielded several questions from reporters about the government-approved ports deal in which a British firm would turn operation of the facilities to Dubai Ports World, which is owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates. UAE has known ties to terrorists and 9-11 hijackers, raising concerns of both Democrats and Republicans about security issues at the ports involved: New York, Baltimore, New Jersey, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

WND was the first news agency to raise the issue with McClellan, asking him about it last Thursday.

Continued the spokesman: “There are other companies, foreign-owned companies that manage ports around the world, including here, where citizens from their countries have been involved in terrorist acts. Is that correct? OK, thank you.”

Next, McClellan suggested the Republicans who have come out in opposition to the Dubai deal simply don’t know the all the facts.

WND asked: “For the first time in his five-year presidency, the president has now threatened to veto what is strongly supported by his own party’s speaker of the House, Senate majority leader, governor of New York and governor of Maryland, among many others – Republicans and Democrats. Can you tell us of any such major split before in American history?”

“Well, Les,” responded McClellan. “I don’t know if those individuals you mention have had an opportunity to learn all the facts. …”

Shot back WND: “Are you contending that they just shoot their mouths off?”

“You’re putting words in my mouth,” said McClellan. “Well, there have been individuals who have spoken out and expressed things that simply aren’t correct about this transaction. And so that’s why we want to make sure that they have the facts. We want to make sure that they know the safeguards that are in place. We want to make sure they understand how carefully reviewed this transaction was to make sure that there are no national security threats with it going forward.”

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