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Frist drops opposition to controversial port deal

Sun., Feb. 26, 2006

LEXINGTON, Ky. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Saturday night that after recent briefings, he is now comfortable with an Arab-owned company running port operations for six American cities and backed off a pledge to pass legislation to stop the deal.

But Frist, a Tennessee Republican who was in Lexington for a state GOP dinner, told reporters that the next few days will be crucial for other members of Congress to press intelligence officials about the details of such an arrangement.

“My comfort level is good, but I have 99 other United States senators who need the opportunity to ask their questions,” he said before speaking to 900 Kentucky Republicans.

“We’re behind the president 100 percent. We believe the decision in all likelihood is absolutely the right one,” Frist added.

Last weekend, it became public that the Bush administration had approved the sale of a port operations company to Dubai Ports World.

On Tuesday, Frist initially criticized the move and threatened legislation to stop it. Friday, aides to Frist told the Washington Post that he would wait to be briefed by the company before taking a stand. He said Saturday night that many of his fears were allayed by briefings by his aides.

While he said Saturday night that legislation may not be necessary now, he said having “30 to 45 days” to step back and evaluate the deal still could be necessary.


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