Compromises offered after port ownership draws heat

By Ted Bridis The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – A United Arab Emirates-based company yesterday offered to submit to a broader U.S. review of the security risks from its deal to take over major operations at six American ports.

Seeking to avert a showdown between President Bush and Congress, DP World also promised to create an American subsidiary that would function independently of executives in Dubai.

During the Bush administration’s 45-day investigation, DP World said a London-based executive who is a British citizen would have authority over the company’s operations at ports in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

Also, an American citizen would serve as the chief security officer during this period, the company said.

“We hope that voluntarily agreeing to further scrutiny demonstrates our commitment to our long-standing relationship with the United States,” said Edward H. Bilkey, the company’s chief operating officer.

The company said its proposals would remain in effect until May 1 or the conclusion of the review, whichever comes first.

A leading senator said DP World sent the offer to the White House and members of Congress yesterday.

Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, praised the company for its “excellent record” on port security and international operations. Supporters of the deal have said the UAE is an important U.S. military ally in the Middle East and in the fight against terrorism.

Warner, R-Va., said the White House was studying the company’s request. Lawyers were discussing the proposal with the Treasury Department, which runs the secretive committee that considers security risks of foreign companies buying or investing in American industry.

“They have to have an opportunity to examine it,” Warner said in an interview with The Associated Press.

A chief critic of the deal, Rep. Peter King, said the proposal appears to offer the more intensive investigation that many lawmakers had sought. King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he believed the offer should be enough to put off an immediate vote in Congress that might have blocked the ports deal.

“If it is what it appears to be, to me there’s no need at this time to go forward” with emergency legislation, said King, R-N.Y.