[dehai-news] (AP) Bush to push international action against pirates


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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Wed Dec 10 2008 - 16:05:58 EST


 Bush to push international action against pirates

The Associated Press

Wed, Dec 10, 2008 (12:33 p.m.)

In one of its final foreign policy initiatives, the Bush administration
plans to push for a broader international accord on how to suppress piracy
in waters off Somalia's lawless coast, officials say.

Without committing more U.S. Navy ships, the administration wants to tap
into what officials see as a growing enthusiasm in Europe and elsewhere for
more effective coordinated action against the Somali pirates. Administration
officials view the current effort as lacking coherence, as pirates score
more and bigger shipping prizes.

Spearheading the administration's case, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
intends to make a pitch at a United Nations anti-piracy meeting in New York
on Tuesday with her counterparts from a number of nations with a stake in
solving the problem.

"I expect in the coming weeks we will work within the U.N. to give the
international system better policy tools to more effectively address the
problem and its root causes," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack
said.

That includes pressing for an international peacekeeping force in Somalia to
replace an Ethiopian-led force that is to depart soon, he said. The pirates
are Somalis based in camps near coastal port villages. The U.S. says they
have links to an Islamic extremist group that has taken control of much of
the country.

The administration has decided it needs to be more active against piracy, if
only because the U.S. Navy is the world's predominant sea power and the
United States has a long-standing interest in freedom of navigation. But
officials want to avoid appearing to force action on partner nations,
especially without committing more U.S. Navy ships.

Fighting piracy was not a prominent topic during the presidential campaign.
The Obama transition office's chief spokesperson on national security
issues, Brooke Anderson, on Wednesday declined to comment on how the
incoming administration would deal with it, indicating that for now it is a
matter for President Bush.

Stephen Morrison, an Africa expert at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies, said in an interview Wednesday that he doubts
anti-piracy policy will be a high priority for Obama early in his term. Nor
does he foresee a heavy Obama focus, in the early going, on the broader
problem of instability in Somalia.

"I don't think there's going to be any stomach for, `Hey, let's really get
our arms around Somalia as a first-out-of-the door issue,'" Morrison said.
The reluctance is rooted, he said, in the U.S. experience in Somalia in the
final days of President George H.W. Bush's administration in 1992, leading
in late 1993 to a deadly U.S. military clash in Mogadishu and a humiliating
U.S. withdrawal.

Two State Department officials discussed broad outlines of the
administration's anti-piracy plan on condition of anonymity. They insisted
on anonymity because decisions on some aspects of the plan were still
pending.

Elements of the administration's approach include:

_ Getting shipping and cruise companies to do more on their own to thwart
pirate attacks, not only through navigational tactics but also by making it
harder for pirates to board their ships. The administration will not
encourage the use of defensive firearms aboard commercial ships but does
favor more use of non-lethal technology such as alarm and surveillance
systems, anti-boarding devices such as water cannons and electric fences,
and long-range acoustic devices that generate painful noise.

"In theory, if mariners heed warnings and regulations and implement prudent
anti-piracy measures, this could eliminate the market for Somali pirates,
making the practice unprofitable," retired Navy Cmdr. John Patch wrote in
the December issue of Proceedings, a publication of the U.S. Naval
Institute.

_ Maintaining an international naval presence in the region, not primarily
to respond to pirates attacks but to deter them, or, in some cases, to
provide channels for safe passage through the most dangerous areas.

_ Improving the sharing of time-sensitive intelligence about the piracy
threat.

_ Coordinating an international effort to disrupt the pirates' financial
dealings and resources.

_ Gaining a firm international consensus on how to deal with legal issues
arising from the capture of pirates. In the U.S. view, some countries in the
region are reluctant to take on the pirates because they prefer not to deal
with the political headache of deciding where and how to prosecute them.

A central reason for the Bush administration's heightened interest is that
piracy has gotten worse recently _ more attacks against a wider range of
targets, including unsuccessful assaults on cruise ships _ in the Gulf of
Aden, which links the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal and the Red Sea to
the Indian Ocean.

Pirates have attacked 32 vessels and hijacked 12 since NATO sent four ships
to the region Oct. 24 to escort cargo ships and conduct anti-piracy patrols.
Ships still being held for huge ransoms include a Saudi oil tanker with $100
million in crude and a Ukrainian ship loaded with tanks and other arms.

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