Bush Expresses Concern About Collapse of Dubai Ports Deal

By Liz Sidoti
The Associated Press
Friday, March 10, 2006 10:41 A.M.

President Bush said Friday he was troubled by the political storm that forced the reversal of a deal allowing a company in Dubai to take over take over operations of six American ports, saying it sent a bad message to U.S. allies in the Middle East.

Bush said the United States needs moderate allies in the Arab world, like the United Arab Emirates, to win the global war on terrorism.

The president said he had been satisfied that security would be sound at the ports if the Dubai deal had taken effect. “Nevertheless, Congress was still very much opposed to it,” Bush said. He made his remarks to a conference of the National Newspaper Association, which represents owners, publishers and editors of community newspapers.

"I'm concerned about a broader message this issue could send to our friends and allies around the world, particularly in the Middle East," the president said. "In order to win the war on terror we have got to strengthen our friendships and relationships with moderate Arab countries in the Middle East."

"UAE is a committed ally in the war on terror," Bush added. "They are a key partner for our military in a critical region, and outside of our own country, Dubai services more of our military, military ships, than any country in the world.

"They're sharing intelligence so we can hunt down the terrorists," Bush added. "They helped us shut down a world wide proliferation network run by A.Q. Khan" — the Pakistani scientist who sold nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya, he said.

"UAE is a valued and strategic partner," he said. "I'm committed to strengthening our relationship with the UAE."

After a storm of protest in the Republican-controlled Congress, DP World announced Thursday that it would transfer six U.S. port operations to a U.S. entity. The moved spared Bush from a veto showdown with GOP lawmakers. Yet the larger issue highlighted by the DP world controversy — U.S. port security — shows no signs of going away.

"The problem of the political moment has passed, but the problem of adequate port security still looms large," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said.

Republicans and Democrats alike welcomed DP World's decision to give up its aspirations to manage significant operations at the six ports, but they warned that the move doesn't negate the urgent need for broad legislation aimed at protecting America's ports.

"I'm sure that the decision by DP World was a difficult decision to hand over port operations that they had purchased from another company," Bush said.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company