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Foreign rule of ports risks terror: Boro leaders

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"Talk about a pre-9/11 mentality," U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria). "This deal had 'disaster' written all over it. I am pushing for a full investigation into the deal. Congress needs to know when questionable deals like this are on the table in the future so they don't get this far."The $6.8 billion deal, which is slated to take effect by March 2, would give the United Arab Emirates-owned company, Dubai Ports World, control of operations at six major American ports, including New York Harbor.U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) is set to introduce legislation to ban foreign governments from controlling operations at the nation's ports when the Senate reconvenes Feb. 27.A similar bill will also be introduced on the floor of the House, said U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills), saying he would support the measure."There are certain things that our government should never outsource and security is one of them," he said in a phone interview Tuesday. "Particularly when we're giving a contract to a nation with a dubious record on national terrorism." President Bush, who initially approved the deal, said Tuesday he would veto any effort to stop it. He contends that the United Arab Emirates has been an ally in the fight against terrorism, but critics of the deal point out that two of the Sept. 11 hijackers came from the Persian Gulf oil-producing nation."It surely is going to fall on the shoulders of the administration to determine whether this goes through or not," said U.S. Rep Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans).Meeks, an unabashed supporter of globalization who cast a pivotal vote for the controversial Central American Free Trade Agreement, said that while the global economy is unavoidable, Congress must err on the side of caution when it comes to national security."This isn't sugar or texitles," Meeks said. "This is ports."Meeks agreed with Maloney's assertion that the process by which the port deal was approved was antiquated, saying the protocols have not been updated since Sept. 11. Congressional attempts to block the sale have drawn criticism from the Bush administration and Arab activist groups.The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of New York viewed the initiatives as "simplistic and racist," especially when the ports were previously run by a British company."Any evidence of the (Dubai Ports World) unsuitability should be explored," the committee's executive director, Katherine Metres Abbadi, said. "But discrimination based on ethnicity or national origin flies in the face of good security practices, free trade principles and American values."Clinton, in a conference call Tuesday, hastened to distinguish between foreign companies and companies owned by a foreign government."The British company was not a company owned by the UK," she said. "It's a very big difference."Weiner took a harder line against countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE that he saw as exporters of terrorism."To some extent, these countries deserve the bashing that they get," he said.The TimesLedger staff contributed to this story.Reach reporter Zach Patberg at news@timesledger.com or at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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