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As New Orleans Marks Mardi Gras, a Dispute Affects a Deal Tied to Its Port and Five Others

I'm Steve Ember with IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

American lawmakers continue to debate the sale of some operations at six ports in the United States to a Dubai company.

Democrats want Congress to have the right to disapprove the deal. Influential Republicans have also spoken out against the sale. There are calls to make national security more of a concern in approving foreign investments in the United States.

But leaders of the Republican majority in Congress say they want to wait until a new investigation is completed before they consider any measures. The Dubai Ports World company has agreed to delay taking control of the operations until after the forty-five day investigation.

The sale involves port terminals where goods are loaded and unloaded from ships. DP World is buying these and others around the world from a British company. On Thursday, a British High Court judge approved the sale of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company.

But he agreed to place a hold on the ruling until a Miami-based company can go before the Court of Appeal. Eller and Company objects to the sale which it says could harm its business. The court is expected to hear a request for an appeal on Monday.

American officials approved the deal after a thirty-day investigation. Foreign companies own about eighty percent of the terminals at American ports.

DP World is owned by the government of Dubai, one of the seven United Arab Emirates. Critics say the U.A.E. has a mixed record in fighting terrorism. Others argue that the deal will have little effect on port security. They say security is mainly the responsibility of federal agencies.

The American Association of Port Authorities represents public agencies that own ports around the country. The group has not taken a position on the issue. But it notes that news reports have been wrong to suggest that DP World would "own," "control" or "take over" the ports.

The six ports are in New York City, Philadelphia, Newark, Miami, Baltimore and New Orleans.

New Orleans was in the news this week for another reason. Celebrations of Mardi Gras came to a close. Six months ago, most of New Orleans was under water when floodwalls failed during Hurricane Katrina. The terrible effects of the storm are still easy to see.

This week city officials renewed a search for bodies, looking for three hundred to four hundred missing people. More than a thousand bodies were found after the storm.

Officials say New Orleans normally has about one million visitors for Mardi Gras. This year, the number was estimated at three hundred thousand. There were parades, but fewer of the usual parties. Store owners say their sales are down about forty percent.

For a full report on New Orleans after Katrina, listen at this time for THIS IS AMERICA on Monday, March thirteenth.

IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English was written by Nancy Steinbach. Read and listen to our reports at I'm Steve Ember.