March 8, 2006

Bush ports position unchanged: W.House

By Matt Spetalnick

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - President George W. Bush is
sticking to his threat to veto any legislation blocking a Dubai
company from managing U.S. ports, a spokesman said, as
congressional Republicans predicted just such a bill would
easily clear a House committee on Wednesday.

"The president's position has not changed," White House
spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters traveling with Bush to
the Gulf Coast region hit by Hurricane Katrina. "We continue to
work closely with Congress. The lines of communication are

But Bush's fellow Republicans in the House showed no sign
of walking away from a confrontation.

Following a weekly meeting of House Republicans, Rep. Ray
LaHood of Illinois said an amendment to block plans by the
state-owned United Arab Emirates company Dubai Ports World to
manage terminals at six U.S. ports would easily win approval by
the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.

Asked by Reuters about the amendment's prospects, LaHood, a
member of the panel, moved his hand and arm to imitate an
airplane taking off.

Rep. Peter King, the New York Republican who chairs the
House Homeland Security Committee, said the amendment was still
being crafted, but added that it will be written in a way to
apply just to stopping the Dubai ports deal.

A full House vote could come next week. Opponents of the
deal cite a potential security threat.

The Bush administration says such concerns are unwarranted
and that the United Arab Emirates has been a valuable ally in
fighting terrorism after the September 11 attacks.

Reflecting the political discomfort of congressional
Republicans defying Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist
refused to comment to reporters when asked about prospects in
the Senate for the House measure. On Tuesday, several senators
said they wanted to hold off making any decisions until a
45-day review period for the Dubai deal ends.

Eric Ueland said, Frist's chief of staff, said the majority
leader met on Wednesday with Treasury Secretary John Snow and
"emphasized that the administration must be informative and
transparent with members of the Senate throughout the 45-day
review process."

House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois, appearing with
Frist at an event to promote congressional passage of an
anti-drug measure, would only say that he wants "to protect
Americans," when asked about the ports legislation moving
through the House with his backing.

Management of the U.S. ports was included in a $6.85
billion deal in which Dubai Ports World would take over the
global assets of Britain-based port operating company P&O.

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Vicki Allen)