[dehai-news] (AP) UN gives OK to land, air attacks on Somali pirates


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From: Er-News (er_news@dehai.org)
Date: Tue Dec 16 2008 - 22:36:59 EST


UN gives OK to land, air attacks on Somali pirates
Tue Dec 16, 6:21 pm ET

UNITED NATIONS On the same day Somali gunmen seized two more ships,
the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize
nations to conduct land and air attacks on pirate bases on the coast
of the Horn of Africa country.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was on hand to push through the
resolution, one of President George W. Bush's last major foreign
policy initiatives.

Rice said the resolution will have a significant impact, especially
since "pirates are adapting to the naval presence in the Gulf of Aden
by traveling further" into sea lanes not guarded by warships sent by
the U.S. and other countries.

The council authorized nations to use "all necessary measures that
are appropriate in Somalia" to stop anyone using Somali territory to
plan or carry out piracy in the nearby waters traversed each year by
thousands of cargo ships sailing between Asia and the Suez Canal.

That includes the use of Somali airspace, even though the U.S.
appeased Indonesia, a council member, by removing direct mention of
it, U.S. officials said.

Somalia Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Jama, whose government asked for
the help, said he was "heartened" by the council action. "These acts
of piracy are categorically unacceptable and should be put to an
end," he said.

The resolution sets up the possibility of increased American military
action in Somalia, a chaotic country where a U.S. peacekeeping
mission in 1992-93 ended with a humiliating withdrawal of troops
after a deadly clash in Mogadishu, as portrayed in the movie "Black
Hawk Down."

The commander of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet expressed doubt last week
about the wisdom of staging ground attacks on Somali pirates. Vice
Adm. Bill Gortney told reporters it is difficult to identify pirates
and said the potential for killing innocent civilians "cannot be
overestimated."

Rice played down the differences between the State Department and
Pentagon, telling reporters that the U.S. was fully committed to
preventing pirates from establishing a sanctuary.

"What we do or do not do in cases of hot pursuit we'll have to see,
and you'll have to take it case by case," she said. "I would not be
here seeking authorization to go ashore if the United States
government, perhaps most importantly, the president of the United
States, were not behind this resolution."

Spurred by widespread poverty in their homeland, which hasn't had a
functioning government for nearly two decades, Somali pirates are
evading an international naval flotilla to intercept huge tankers,
freighters and other ships to hold for ransom. A tugboat operated by
the French oil company Total and a Turkish cargo ship became the
latest victims Tuesday.

Pirates have hijacked more than 40 vessels off Somalia's 1,880-mile
coastline this year. Before the latest seizures, maritime officials
said 14 vessels remained in pirate hands including a Saudi tanker
carrying $100 million worth of crude oil and a Ukrainian ship loaded
with tanks and other heavy weapons. Also held are more than 250 crew
members.

Rice said the resolution will allow the tougher action needed to
quell the piracy, which she blamed on Somalia's turmoil.

"Once peace and normalcy have returned to Somalia, we believe that
economic development can return to Somalia," she said. "This current
response is a good start."

Under the resolution, nations must first get a request for an attack
from Somalia's weak U.N.-backed government, which itself would be
required to notify U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon before any attack.

"Piracy is a symptom of the state of anarchy which has persisted in
that country for over 17 years," Ban told the council. "This
lawlessness constitutes a serious threat to regional stability and to
international peace and security."

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman declined to discuss
any possible military operations, but acknowledged there are
"practical challenges" to combating pirates. He said the U.S. would
continue to work with allies in the region and encourage shipping
companies to take prudent measures to protect their vessels.

The United Nations also has been urging shipping and insurance
companies not to pay ransom for captured ships, saying that
encourages more piracy.

He Yafei, China's vice minister for foreign affairs, told the
Security Council that China is considering sending warships to the
Gulf of Aden, where they would join ships from the U.S., Russia,
Denmark, Italy and other countries.

Kenya's military chief, Gen. Jeremiah Kianga, said Tuesday his
country will increase patrols along its own coast because the Somali
piracy has made business at Kenya's main port more expensive. The
Kenyan air force and navy will not enter Somali air space or waters,
he said.

Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the Vienna, Austria-based
U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, said Tuesday that it is important for
nations to jointly confront pirates.

"Regional cooperation is essential," Costa said. "A few years ago,
piracy was a threat to the Straits of Malacca (in Southeast Asia). By
working together, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand managed
to cut the number of attacks by more than half since 2004."

___

Associated Press writers Ahmed Al-Haj in San'A, Yemen, William J.
Kole in Vienna, Austria, and Barbara Surk in Dubai, United Arab
Emirates, contributed to this report.

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