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DP World to help test screening of U.S.-bound cargo

Story Highlights

• Arab-owned firm to participate in screening test for U.S.-bound cargo
• Testing to take place at six foreign ports, will include radiation screening
• DP World set off a furor in February with its purchase of U.S. port operations
• Homeland security secretary: U.S. "will not outsource our security"
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Dubai Ports World, the Arab-owned company which set off a furor with its purchase of six U.S. port operations earlier this year, has been cleared to join a federal pilot program to test the methods used to screen U.S.-bound cargo for radiation.

The Security Freight Initiative involves the use of existing technology -- including streaming video and nuclear-detection devices -- at foreign ports, according to details announced Thursday by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

The United States, however, "will not outsource our security," Chertoff said, adding that all decisions about whether cargo is allowed to continue to the United States "will be made 100 percent by U.S. officials." (Watch Chertoff describe his "bottom line" Video)

Though the inspection authority rests with the host government, "American customs officials will satisfy themselves about the safety of a container before that container is allowed to continue to the United States of America," the secretary said.

"In the end the 'go, no-go' decision rests with our guys," he said.

Three of the ports that will participate in the congressionally mandated initiative are operated by DP World, the United Arab Emirates-owned company deemed a security risk by numerous lawmakers in February when it bought P&O, the British company that manages some cargo and passenger terminals at ports on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Though Chertoff and President Bush adamantly defended the deal, it fizzled after Republicans and Democrats threatened to introduce legislation blocking the sale. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-New Jersey, promised legislation to require U.S. citizenship of port security officials. (Port deal's timeline)

After hearing the opposition to its purchase, DP World agreed in March to sell the operations -- located in New York City; Newark, New Jersey; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Baltimore, Maryland; Miami, Florida; and New Orleans, Louisiana -- but no sale has yet been announced.

A source said that he "wouldn't argue with the term ironic" to describe the situation in which "the same country deemed a security risk back in February is the same country picked to help carry [the screening] out."

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, a staunch critic of the nation's port security efforts, praised the initiative but said it isn't enough.

"There is much still to be done: Nuclear screening programs are now years behind schedule, research and development funding has been squandered and international security programs have been grossly mismanaged and underfunded," he said in a written statement. "DHS has finally taken the first step, but we cannot let the fight to secure our ports stop there."

The ports involved in the initiative include DP World's Port Qasim in Pakistan, Southampton in Britain and the Gamman terminal at Port Busan in South Korea, as well as Puerto Cortes in Honduras, Port Salalah in Oman and the port of Singapore.

All six ports are expected to go online during the course of 2007, Chertoff said, adding that the first two would be Port Qasim and Puerto Cortes in February.

More than 7 percent of all U.S.-bound shipments at those ports will be screened, and that the initiative will be "on target to hit our goal of 100 percent by the end of next year," Chertoff said.

CNN's Andrea Koppel contributed to this report.


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Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announces the screening program that his department says will strengthen the international supply chain.

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