US opposition to ports deal based on fear of terror attacks

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First America's politicians drove off a Chinese company that tried to buy a US oil group, Unocal. Now both Republicans and Democrats have created a furore intended to stop Dubai Ports World getting its hands on ports assets in the US that come with its £3.9bn purchase of P&O.

The problem? Americans are nervous that an Arab company's takeover of operations at six major American ports, including New York, could lead to young Arab men working there. And, they argue, it was young Arab men who were the 9/11 hijackers, including two from the United Arab Emirates.

DP World has already received US regulatory approval, which was a condition of its acquisition of P&O. But US politicians seem to think they can reverse it. If so, that could mean that the US business is left out of the acquisition or it could even lead to the collapse of the deal.

Congressman Peter King, a New York Republican and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said: "I'm aware of the conditions [of the deal's clearance] and they relate entirely to how the company carries out its procedures, but it doesn't go to who they hire, or how they hire people. They don't address the underlying conditions, which is how are they going to guard against things like infiltration by al-Qa'ida or someone else, how are they going to guard against corruption?"

Senator Lindsay Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said: "It's unbelievably tone deaf politically at this point in our history. Most Americans are scratching their heads, wondering why this company from this region now?"

Senator Barbara Boxer said: "It is ridiculous to say you're taking secret steps to make sure that it's OK for a nation that had ties to 9/11, (to) take over part of our port operations in many of our largest ports. This has to stop."

Senator Hillary Clinton of New York and her Democratic colleague Robert Mendez of New Jersey have introduced legislation to prohibit companies owned or controlled by foreign governments from buying US ports operations.