WASHINGTON -- The Homeland Security Department objected at first to a United Arab Emirates company's taking over significant operations at six US ports. It was the lone protest among members of the government committee that eventually approved the deal without dissent.
The department's early objections were settled in the government's review of the $6.8 billion deal after Dubai-owned DP World agreed to a series of security restrictions.
Yesterday, congressional leaders, the company, and Bush administration officials worked for a compromise intended to derail plans by Republicans and Democrats for legislation this week that would force a new investigation of security issues relating to the deal. Talks were to continue today.
Under one proposal, DP World would seek approval of the deal from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, given the company's decision Thursday to indefinitely postpone its takeover of US port operations. Other proposals included a new, intensive 45-day review of the deal by the government -- something the White House had refused to consider as recently as Friday.
Representative Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said discussions among congressional leaders centered on the review issue. King, Republican of New York, said he would have to see all the details of a compromise before deciding whether it met all of his concerns.
Despite persistent criticism from Republicans and Democrats, President Bush has defended his administration's approval of the ports deal.
The administration approved the ports deal on Jan. 17 after DP World agreed during secret negotiations to cooperate with law enforcement investigations in the future and make other concessions.
The uproar over DP World has exposed how the government routinely approves deals involving national security without the input of senior administration officials.
Bush, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, and Treasury Secretary John Snow, who oversees the government committee that approved the deal, all say they did not know about the purchase until after it was finalized. The work was done mostly by assistant secretaries.