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Emirates firm agrees to new US review

Pact on 6 ports may defuse debate on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON -- The White House yesterday accepted an offer by a United Arab Emirates company to avert a political showdown by submitting to a second, and broader, US review of potential security risks in an accord to take over many operations at six American ports.

The Treasury Department said it will promptly begin the unusual review once the company formally files a request for one. It said the same government panel that earlier investigated the deal but found no reason for national security concerns will reconsider it.

In six pages of documents sent to the White House, DP World, based in Dubai, asked for a 45-day investigation of plans to run shipping terminals in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami, and Philadelphia.

The offer, made after negotiations over the weekend among US and company officials, defused threats by some lawmakers to introduce legislation this week that might delay or block the deal.

The president's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, said the White House supports the plan to delay the ports, as long as it was not derailed. Senior US officials and DP World executives have coordinated their efforts in recent weeks.

DP World's request for a review was highly unusual.

The secretive US committee that considers security risks of foreign companies buying or investing in US industry has conducted such full investigations only about two dozen times among the more than 1,500 deals it has reviewed.

The company said that until May 1, an executive based in London, who is a British subject, would have authority over DP World's US operations. It pledged that Dubai executives would not control or influence company business in the United States, but it said it was entitled to all profits for the period. It also said it would appoint an American to be its chief security officer in the United States.

''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 chief operating officer.

President Bush has defended his administration's approval of DP World's proposal to buy Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. It was not clear whether the re-examination by US officials would produce a different outcome.

''We're satisfied that there's been a complete review of the deal," Frances Fragos Townsend, the White House homeland security adviser, said in a discussion on ''Fox News Sunday."

In an administration review, completed Jan. 17, DP World agreed to cooperate with law enforcement investigations and to disclose records on demand about ''foreign operational direction" of its business.

The US review committee unanimously approved the arrangement after a regular 30-day review, in which US intelligence agencies reported that they had found no derogatory information about DP World in their files.

As part of that review, the administration did not require DP World to keep copies of business records on US soil, where they would be subject to orders by US courts. It also did not require the company to designate an American citizen to accommodate US government requests for information or assistance.

In the legal papers sent to the White House, DP World said it would abide by the outcome of the lengthier review but indicated that it could sue if the results were different. The administration may seek additional security measures beyond the terms negotiated.

A chief critic of the ports deal, Representative Peter King, Republican of New York, said the company appeared to invite the more thorough investigation that is sought by many lawmakers. King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the proposal should be enough to delay any immediate effort in Congress to block the deal.

Another critic, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said DP World's willingness to submit to the new review was ''certainly a significant step forward, but the devil is in the details." Schumer said Congress should have a chance to approve or reject any decision.

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