With Congress moving to overrule the White House, Dubai Ports World announced it will give up its management stake in a deal to operate some of the terminals at U.S. ports and transfer it to an American company.
“Because of the strong relationship between the United Arab Emirates and the United States and to preserve that relationship, DP World has decided to transfer fully the U.S. operation of P&O Operations North America to a United States entity,” said DP World’s chief operating officer, Edward H. Bilkey.
The statement was read on the Senate floor today by Sen. John Warner, R-Va.
Warner said Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum of the United Arab Emirates, “advised the company … that this action is the appropriate course to tak
DP World was to manage two of Baltimore’s 14 cargo terminals, three of 12 in Houston, one of three in Miami, one of four in Newark, two of five in New Orleans, one of five in Philadelphia and one cruise terminal in New York City and one in Boston.
It also was to help run stevedoring operations in some of those ports and a number of others.
The Republican-led House Appropriations Committee voted yesterday 62-2 to add an amendment to a military funding bill, essentially blocking the pact with the government-owned company.
In a meeting today at the White House with House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., President Bush was told measures would be passed to block the deal by veto-proof majorities, according to CNN.
The president has threatened a veto of any legislation to scuttle the agreement.
Senate Democrats, seeing opportunity to seize ground from Republicans on a national security issue, tried to get their own measure passed by attaching an amendment to a lobby reform bill.
Senate GOP leaders wanted to prevent a vote before the end of the 45-day review period, but those hopes were dashed when the House panel voted overwhelmingly against the ports deal.
“I admire what the House did,” said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., according to the Associated Press. “They said we know the president feels strongly about this. We know he said he’s going to veto this. But we’re going to do it because we think we have an obligation to our constituents.”
But Democratic leaders remained cautious following the Dubai firm’s announcement.
Reid said, according to the New York Times, “We will have to wait and see what is really going to happen.”
A leading critic of the agreement, Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, called the announcement today a promising development.
He said, however, that if the Dubai-owned company retained ultimate control over the port operations, “I don’t think our goals would be accomplished and obviously we will need to study this agreement carefully.”
Opponents have voiced security concerns about control of port terminals by an Arab country that has been a conduit for terrorist funds, spawned some of the 9-11 hijackers and refuses to recognize Israel.
A group opposing Islamic extremism sponsored rallies in New York City and Los Angeles to protest the deal.
“We have heard from our politicians; now it’s time that we hear from the people of America,” said Jesse Petrilla, founder of the The United American Committee. “We need to send a clear message to our president that Republicans and Democrats alike agree that this sale goes greatly against the best interest of our nation and its people.”
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