More Objections Follow Plan to Have Dubai Firm Operate U.S. Ports

High-ranking U.S. lawmaker says security steps inadequate for Arab company's ports takeover

At least one Senate oversight hearing is planned for later this month.

"Congress is welcome to look at this and can get classified briefings," Chertoff told CNN's "Late Edition." "We have to balance the paramount urgency of security against the fact that we still want to have a robust global trading system," he added.

Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, is working on legislation to prohibit companies owned or controlled by foreign governments from running port operation in the U.S. Menendez said Chertoff's comments showed him that the administration "just does not get it."

Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, joined some family members of Sept. 11 victims at a news conference Sunday to urge President George W. Bush to personally intervene. The president "should override the agreement and conduct a special investigation into the matter," Schumer said.

Dubai Ports World should not be excluded automatically from such a deal because it is based in the UAE, Chertoff said.

Critics have cited the UAE's history as an operational and financial base for the hijackers who carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In addition, they contend the UAE was an important transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea and Libya by a Pakistani scientist.

Dubai Ports World has said it intends to "maintain and, where appropriate, enhance current security arrangements." The UAE's foreign minister has described his country as an important U.S. ally in fighting terrorism.

"I would hope that our friends in Abu Dhabi would not be offended by the fact that in our democracy, we debate these things," Rice said in the interview with the Arab journalists.

<<Associated Press WorldStream -- 02/21/06>>