U.S. President George W. Bush said on Tuesday that he has not changed his position on the deal under which a United Arab Emirates company would take over some operations of six key U.S. ports from a British company.
"My position hasn't changed to my message to the Congress. And I appreciate the fact that the companies concerned have asked the Congress for a review of all the security implications," he said after meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Bush said that should he or other administration officials have any doubt that the ports would be less secure and the people endangered, "this deal wouldn't go forward."
He reiterated that port security would still be handled by the Coast Guard and the Customs Service, after Dubai Ports World takes over the operations from Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company at the U.S. ports.
"Our duty is to protect America, and we will protect America," he said.
"My question to the members of Congress as they review this matter is, one, please look at the facts. And two, what kind of signal does it send throughout the world if it's okay for a British company to manage the ports, but not a company that has been cleared for security purposes from the Arab world?" he said.
Under pressure from lawmakers from both parties, the White House agreed on Sunday to conduct a new 45-day review of the deal.
At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte said the threat posed by the deal to U.S. national security was low.
"On the basis of our inquiry we assess that the threat to U.S. national security posed by DP World to be low," he said.