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American Shipper

Schumer seeks answers to port sale approval

Schumer seeks answers to port sale approval

   Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who has led the charge in Congress to void the sale of U.S.-based terminals to the Dubai government’s port arm, demanded Wednesday that President Bush answer a list of 15 pointed questions about how the administration reached its decision to approve the deal (see Thursday’s Shippers News Wire).

   A multi-agency task force known as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) reviewed the national security implications of transferring North American terminal rights from British ports operator P&O, and determined that the sale did not pose a security threat, although extra conditions were included in the arrangement.

   But Congress claims that it should have been alerted early on that sensitive port operations were to be transferred to a foreign government with an uneven record on terrorism and that the approval was granted in secret. In fact, President Bush did not even know his government had approved the sale until the story hit the press. But under normal conditions, presidents are not usually notified about such foreign investment when the cases are routine.

   Questions Schumer asked President Bush to answer include:

   * Did CFIUS look into whether there is any al Qaeda or suspected terrorist group investment in the company or the financing of the takeover?

   * Did CFIUS look into whether any DP World employee or senior management official had any involvement in past nuclear weapon smuggling operations conducted out of the United Arab Emirates?

   * Did CFIUS consider the possibility of sudden regime change in the UAE or formulate a contingency plan if the government of Dubai suddenly was taken over by radical anti-American leaders?

   * Who advocated on behalf of the government of Dubai for approval of the deal? Did members, or former members, of the administration lobby for the deal?

   * What, if any, role did David Sanborn, DP World’s former director for operations in Europe and Latin America and Bush’s nominee as maritime administrator, play in the evaluation and approval of the takeover?