March 4, 2006

US ports deal review to widen probes: NY Times

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The deeper review promised by the Bush
administration of a Dubai company's plan to take over some
terminal operations at U.S. ports will include inspections at
the ports, employee background checks and an examination of the
United Arab Emirates' terrorism-fighting efforts, The New York
Times reported on Saturday.

Citing senior officials including Assistant Secretary of
Homeland Security Stewart Baker, the Times said that the
details of the review reflect what the officials described as a
commitment to broadening the initial review that gave the
go-ahead to the acquisition. That review's conclusions have
been questioned by local politicians and members of Congress.

"This is a full review without preconceptions," Baker told
the Times. "We are going to give this transaction a very robust
examination," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Baker and other senior administration officials told the
Times the new inquiry would differ fundamentally from the first
one. For example, whereas in the first review federal agencies
were asked whether they knew of troubling information about the
company, investigators will be sent out to seek information
this time around.

The 45-day inquiry will yield a report to be submitted to
President George W. Bush, who will have to approve the transfer
or reject it, the Times said, again citing officials. The
initial 30-day inquiry was conducted by a lower-level group
headed by Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt.

Even before the second review starts Coast Guard inspectors
have visited the terminals currently run by the Peninsular &
Oriental Steam Navigation Company, the subsidiary of Britain's
P&O that is selling its terminal business to DP World, the
Times said. In the coming days the Coast Guard plans to inspect
DP World operations in the United Arab Emirates, home of Dubai,
specifically to determine whether anti-terrorism security rules
are being enforced in ports there, it added.

A senior administration official who spoke only on
condition of anonymity said it might be a matter of days, and
possibly more than a week, before the 45-day review started.
"We are assessing this entirely anew," the newspaper quoted the
official as saying.

Among other issues, Baker said the UAE responses to
terrorism threats would certainly be part of the new inquiry,
the Times said.