[dehai-news] (AP) EU ships to arrive early for Somali piracy mission

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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Mon Dec 08 2008 - 10:06:50 EST

EU ships to arrive early for Somali piracy mission

By SLOBODAN LEKIC 40 minutes ago, Dec 8, 2008

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) Six warships will deploy early to the waters off
the Horn of Africa to combat piracy amid growing alarm over attacks on
international shipping, European Union officials said Monday.

The six warships will arrive on Dec. 15 five days ahead of schedule to
replace the four-vessel NATO flotilla conducting anti-piracy patrols off the
Somali coast The early deployment is a sign of the urgency in protecting one
of the world's most important shipping lanes, said Cristina Gallach,
spokeswoman for the bloc's foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

"It will be an important contribution to addressing one of the most
challenging threats to maritime trade, and particularly to the people of
Somalia who have had their humanitarian support hampered by acts of piracy,"
Gallach said.

European Union foreign ministers will announce the change at a meeting later

The EU warships and three maritime reconnaissance aircraft will patrol the
Gulf of Aden and escort cargo ships carrying relief aid through
pirate-infested waters to Somalia, as the NATO vessels have done since the
end of October.

Officials said the number of EU warships could be increased in the future if
the need arises. So far, Britain, France, Greece, Sweden, Spain, Belgium,
and the Netherlands have agreed to contribute naval units to the task force.

In addition to the EU vessels, about a dozen other warships from the U.S.
5th Fleet based in Bahrain, as well as from India, Russia and Malaysia and
other nations are patrolling in the area.

Although the NATO force has successfully delivered nearly 30,000 tons of
humanitarian supplies to Somalia, it has not been able to stem a surge in
pirate attacks off Somalia. Pirates from a number of Somali ports have
attacked 32 vessels and hijacked 12 of them since the NATO operation began
Oct. 24.

Under the mandate received from the U.N. Security Council, the international
fleet operating off the Horn of Africa has not been able to board seized
ships or to free hostage crews.

Gallach said the EU flotilla would operate under "robust rules of
engagement," but she declined to elaborate.

The EU has conducted 20 peacekeeping operations around the world so far, but
the new mission will be its first naval endeavor. The task force codenamed
Operation Atalanta will have the same duties as the NATO mission,
including escorting cargo vessels, protecting merchant ships and deterring
pirate attacks.

The task force will be commanded by British Vice Admiral Philip Jones from
his headquarters near London. The vessels and their 1,200 crew members will
be based at the Red Sea port of Djibouti and in Kenya, EU officials said.

"This operation under British command, I hope will begin to establish
international order in seas that are vital to trade right around the world,"
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said as he arrived for the
ministerial meeting.

Somalia has been in chaos for nearly two decades, and the country's
Western-backed transitional government has failed to assert any real control
since it was formed in 2004. The administration relies on troops from
Ethiopia for protection.

About 50 cargo ships transit daily through the Gulf of Aden, a strategic
waterway that links the Indian Ocean with the Suez Canal and the
Mediterranean Sea.

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