March 7, 2006

Lawmaker tries to block ports deal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. lawmaker said on Tuesday he
would try to block a controversial deal for a Dubai company to
manage facilities at U.S. ports by attaching an amendment to a
must-pass spending bill for the Iraq war and hurricane relief.

The move by House of Representatives Appropriations
Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis, a California Republican, could
set up a showdown with President George W. Bush, who has
threatened to veto any legislation blocking the ports deal.

Lewis said he was crafting an amendment to be part of an
emergency spending package for $70 billion for the Iraq and
Afghanistan wars and $19.8 billion for Gulf Coast hurricane

"I have heard from many of my constituents who have strong
concerns about the possibility of foreign-owned companies
managing U.S. ports. I have also heard from many of the members
of my committee who have similar concerns," Lewis said.

"I have been working with the Republican leadership and
relevant authorizing committee chairman to craft an amendment
for the supplemental to address these concerns," he said.

A deal under which Dubai Ports World took over the global
assets of Britain-based P&O gave the state-owned Arab company
control over managing some facilities at six major U.S. ports.

It unleashed a political firestorm, with opponents charging
it posed a potential security threat and the Bush
administration agreed to an additional 45-day review of the

Bush has said security concerns were unwarranted, saying
security at the ports would remain in U.S. control. Dubai is a
member of the United Arab Emirates, which Bush insists is a
strong ally in his war against terrorism.

A spokesman for Lewis said the amendment still was being
written, and it was unclear whether it would specifically
target the Dubai ports deal or would more broadly address
foreign-owned companies managing U.S. ports.

The House Appropriations Committee was to start work on
Wednesday to complete the emergency spending package to send it
to the House floor later this month.