February 22, 2006

Snow says was uninvolved in US port deal approval

By Glenn Somerville

TORRINGTON, Connecticut (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury chief
John Snow, head of the panel that cleared a deal for a
state-owned Dubai company to manage major U.S. ports, said on
Wednesday he was not involved in deliberations until after the
transaction was approved.

In a move that sparked national-security worries among
Republicans and Democrats alike, the multi-agency Committee on
Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS) recently gave
Dubai Ports World approval to buy British company P&O, which
runs six U.S. ports including New York and Baltimore.

"I involved myself in it as it came to my attention over
the course of the last three or four days. I got involved in it
after the approval process," Snow, chair of the panel, told
reporters when pressed on the issue during a tour of a building
company in Connecticut.

Still, when asked at an earlier stop in Danbury,
Connecticut if he thought CFIUS had taken the right step, Snow
said: "I have every confidence in this decision. Yes."

The White House said on Wednesday that President George W.
Bush also did not know about the approval until it was

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, a Democrat, wrote to Snow on
Wednesday asking him to detail all Bush administration ties to
Dubai Ports World, citing a deal by the rail company Snow once
headed to sell its global ports assets to the Dubai company.

CSX Corp., which Snow headed until he took over Treasury
three years ago, sold the port assets for $1.15 billion in

Snow told reporters he had known nothing about the 2004

"I learned of this transaction probably the same way that
members of the Senate did -- by reading about it in the
newspapers," he said.

While making an effort to stress he had no links to Dubai
Ports World, Snow stoutly defended the decision against critics
and contended that overturning it would be a mistake.

"Our failing here, if there was a failing, was in
explaining this process," Snow told reporters after touring a
plant that makes fuel cells, adding that the administration
would be "reaching out" to lawmakers worried about the deal.

"Let me say that, having vetted the process, and having
concluded that it would not present national security risks,
the implication of failing to approve this would be to tell the
world that investments in the United States from certain parts
of the world aren't welcome," he added.