WASHINGTON — Citing national security risks, President Obama on Friday blocked a Chinese company from owning four wind farm projects in northern Oregon near a Navy base where the US military flies unmanned drones and electronic-warfare planes on training missions.
It was the first time in 22 years that a president has blocked such a foreign business deal.
Obama’s decision was likely to be another irritant in the increasingly tense economic relationship with China. It also comes against an election-year backdrop of intense criticism from Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney, who accuses Obama of not being tough enough with China.
In his decision, Obama ordered Ralls Corp., a company owned by Chinese nationals, to divest its interest in the wind farms it purchased earlier this year near the Naval Weapons Systems Training Facility in Boardman, Ore.
The case reached the president’s desk after the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States determined there was no way to address the national security risks posed by the Chinese company’s purchases.
Only the president has final authority to prohibit a transaction.
The administration would not say what risks the wind farm purchases presented. The Treasury Department said the committee made its recommendation to Obama after receiving an analysis of the potential threats from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The military has acknowledged that it used the Oregon Naval facility to test unmanned drones and the EA-18G ‘‘Growler.’’ The electronic warfare aircraft accompanies fighter bombers on missions and protectively jams enemy radar, destroying them with missiles along the way.
At the Oregon site, the planes fly as low as 200 feet and nearly 300 miles per hour.
The last time a president used the law to block a transaction was 1990, when President George H.W. Bush voided the sale of Mamco Manufacturing to a Chinese agency.
The Treasury Department said in a statement that Obama’s decision is specific to this transaction and does not set a precedent for other direct investment in the country by China or any other country.
China’s trade advantage over the United States has emerged as a key issue in the final weeks of the campaign. Romney accuses Obama of failing to stand up to Beijing, while the president criticizes the GOP nominee for investing part of his personal fortune in China and outsourcing jobs there while he ran the private equity firm Bain Capital.
Both campaigns are running ads on China in battleground states, especially Ohio, where workers in the manufacturing industry have been hard-hit by outsourcing.
Obama, in an interview Wednesday with The Plain Dealer of Cleveland, said the US must push hard against Beijing but ‘‘not go out of our way to embarrass’’ China.
‘‘We’re not interested in triggering an all-out trade war that would damage both economies,’’ Obama said.
Romney says force likely not needed to deter Iran on nuclear weapons
Mitt Romney says he doesn’t believe military action will be necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
The Republican presidential nominee said he discussed the issue with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by telephone Friday. Romney later told reporters that it is unclear whether there is any difference between their so-called ‘‘red lines’’ on when launching military action against Iran would be appropriate.
Netanyahu argued that an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities may be the only answer. The relationship of Romney and Netanyahu extends back to the mid-1970s,when both worked at Boston Consulting Group. Romney has promoted those ties while criticizing President Obama for what he considers tepid support for Israel.
The White House said Obama also spoke to Netanyahu on Friday.
Satirical story about presidents reported as fact by Iranian agency
CHICAGO — A joke by the satirical newspaper The Onion appears to have gotten lost in translation.
An Iranian news agency picked up as fact a story from the paper about a supposed survey showing a majority of white Americans would rather vote for Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, than President Obama. One problem: the story was made up, like everything in the satirical newspaper.
The English-language service of Iran’s semiofficial Fars news agency republished the story Friday, several days after it appeared in The Onion.
The Iranian version is copied word-for-word from the original.
It leaves out only The Onion’s description of Ahmadinejad as ‘‘a man who has repeatedly denied the Holocaust and has had numerous political prisoners executed.’’
Fla. GOP fires voter-drive firm accused of fraud
TALLAHASSEE — What first appeared to be an isolated problem in one Florida county has spread statewide, with election officials in nine counties informing prosecutors or state election officials about questionable voter registration forms filled out on behalf of the Republican Party of Florida.
State Republican officials have fired the vendor it had hired to register voters and took the additional step of filing an election fraud complaint against the company, Strategic Allied Consulting, with state officials.
A spokesman for Florida’s GOP said the matter was being treated seriously.
Florida is the battleground state where election problems led to the chaotic recount that followed the 2000 presidential election.
The Republican Party of Florida has paid Strategic Allied Consulting more than $1.3 million, and the Republican National Committee used the group for work in Nevada, North Carolina, Colorado, and Virginia.
The company said earlier this week that it was cooperating with elections officials in Florida. It said the suspect forms were turned in by one person, who has been fired.
‘‘Strategic has a zero-tolerance policy for breaking the law,’’ Fred Petti, a company attorney, said Thursday.
In Florida, it is a third-degree felony to ‘‘willfully submit’’ any false voter registration information, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.