Bush ready to veto attempt to derail P&O takeover by Dubai

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The Independent Online

Political opposition to the takeover - which will see P&O's contracts to run six US ports transfer to the state-controlled Middle Eastern ports operator - appeared to gather momentum, and DP World sent its chairman to Washington on an urgent lobbying mission.

Members of Congress proposed emergency legislation to suspend the deal, arguing that the ports are prime terrorist targets and a Dubai takeover leaves them open to infiltration by al-Qa'ida agents.

But the US president threw his weight behind DP World, saying he would veto any legislation aimed at delaying or blocking the takeover. "The company has co-operated with US authorities," he said. "The company will not manage port security, port security will continue to be managed by the coast guard and Customs. And the company is from a country that has been co-operative in the war on terror."

Sultan bin Sulayem, the chairman of DP World, led a delegation to Washington and launched a frantic lobbying effort to stop politicians blocking the deal or forcing the company to give up its contracts. The company has been caught off-guard by the storm, and is arguing that security at the ports remains the responsibility of the port authorities.

P&O's six ports contracts in the US include New York's cruise liner terminal and ports in New Jersey and Miami. They account for about 12 per cent of profit at the ports business, and 6 per cent of the group total. The deal has already been approved by the Bush administration and a London court is scheduled to seal the deal on Monday.

Yesterday congressmen from both parties said they would launch emergency legislation to demand a reconsideration of the deal.

Senator Charles Schumer said Dubai had a "nexus of involvement with terrorists", because al-Qa'ida money passed through the financial centre and two of the 11 September hijackers were from the United Arab Emirates. "We understand the pain of carelessness in New York," he said.

One of P&O's operational partners in Miami has filed a lawsuit aimed at blocking the deal. And politicians ranging from Hillary Clinton, the New York senator, to Bill Frist, the Senate Republican majority leader, have demanded a ban on foreign-owned companies operating US ports.

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