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Dubai Company Agrees to Delay Takeover of U.S. Port Operations

I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Economics Report.

A political storm grew this week over a deal to sell operations at six American ports to a government-owned company in Dubai.

Critics see a "homeland security accident waiting to happen," as Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York called it. Influential Republicans have also criticized the deal.

Late this week Dubai Ports World offered a compromise. The company still expects to complete the sale on March second. But it says it will not exercise control of those port operations while it holds further discussions on security.

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

Foreign companies operate most of the shipping terminals at American ports. But critics say the United Arab Emirates has a mixed record in fighting terrorism. The Bush administration calls the U.A.E. an important ally.

Dubai Ports World says the deal covers thirty terminals in eighteen countries, and the American operations represent a small part.

The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company of Britain currently owns the terminals. Last October, a part of Dubai Ports World offered to buy P and O. On February thirteenth, P and O shareholders voted to accept an increased offer.

DP World was formed in September when the Dubai Ports Authority joined with DPI Terminals. In January of last year, DPI bought CSX World Terminals, the international port business of the CSX Corporation in the United States. Treasury Secretary John Snow headed CSX before he joined the administration in two thousand three.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States approved the deal that is now being criticized. This government committee, chaired by the Treasury secretary, investigates business deals that could affect national security.

President Bush has promised to veto any attempt by Congress to block the port deal. The White House now says it should have informed members of Congress sooner. VOA's White House reporter Scott Stearns says the president did not learn about the deal until it was already approved.

Last year an oil company controlled by the Chinese government tried to buy an American business. Opponents raised national security concerns. The Chinese company withdrew its offer, blaming the "political environment."

This VOA Special English Economics Report was written by Mario Ritter. Read and listen to our reports at I'm Steve Ember.