Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Tampa Officials move ahead with deal with UAE to handle cargo at ports

TAMPA, Fla. -- Amid growing criticism of a deal to give a United Arab Emirates company a major presence in U.S. ports, Tampa port officials voted to move ahead with a deal that would see the company taking over cargo handling at the city's port.

Tampa Port Authority commissioners voted 6-1 Tuesday to continue contract discussions with a subsidiary of Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., a London-based company that is being acquired by Dubai Ports World, a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates, a U.S. ally.

P&O operates facilities at six major seaports on the East and Gulf coasts, and that has key congressional leaders worried about potential security lapses once Dubai Ports World takes over.

President Bush on Tuesday brushed aside objections by leaders in the Senate and House that the $6.8 billion sale could raise risks of terrorism at American ports. In a forceful defense of his administration's earlier approval of the deal, he pledged to veto any bill Congress might approve to block the agreement.

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