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Piracy latest: UN approves sanctions against Somali pirates

Piracy latest: UN approves sanctions against Somali pirates

New York: The UN Security Council voted unanimously Thursday to impose sanctions on pirates, arms smugglers, and perpetrators of instability in Somalia in a fresh attempt to help end lawlessness in the Horn of Africa nation.

The council's quick approval of the British-sponsored resolution was followed by an open meeting on the deteriorating situation in Somalia - both on land and at sea off its nearly 3,900 kilometer (2,424 mile) coastline, which includes some of the world's most important shipping routes.

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Raisuddin Zenenga reflected the view of many speakers when he said: "Piracy, as well as the recent terrorist attacks against international targets, are only symptoms of the fundamental problem which is the state of anarchy in Somalia."

He said the multinational effort being mobilized to fight the pirates off Somalia - involving the European Union, NATO countries, Russia, India and others - should be replicated to mobilize an international force to tackle the security problems in Somalia itself.

US deputy ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo called for immediate steps to stabilize the deteriorating security situation, which threatens political progress and an Oct. 26 cease-fire agreement between the Somali government and an Islamist group that has led the insurgency in the country.

"Though we may be tempted to address piracy as a discrete issue it is a direct result of the lack of rule of law and desperate economic conditions on the ground," she told the council.

It is "crucial," DiCarlo said, that the international community strengthen the beleaguered 3,450-strong African Union force in Mogadishu so Somalis continue to receive food.

If a 6,000-strong multinational force - which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for - can't be mobilized to replace the AU troops, the Security Council should consider sending in a UN peacekeeping force, she said.

The African Union also urged the UN to quickly send peacekeepers to Somalia.

Efthimios Mitropoulos, secretary general of the International Maritime Organization, urged the Security Council to extend its authorization for ships from countries helping to fight piracy to enter Somalia's territorial waters. And he urged the council to adopt "clear rules of engagement for participating units to facilitate the disruption of pirate operations."

So far this year, he said, more than 120 attacks have been reported off the coast of Somalia, resulting in the seizure of more than 35 ships and the kidnapping of more than 600 crew members who were held for ransom. Currently, he said, 14 ships and some 280 seafarers are being held hostage in Somalia.

The United States circulated a draft resolution Thursday afternoon that would extend the authorization for countries to pursue pirates in Somalia's territorial waters and use "all necessary means to repress acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea." That is the same wording in the current mandate which expires on Dec. 2 and would be extended for a year.

Britain's UN Ambassador John Sawers told the council that members need to look carefully at the renewal "to ensure that the mandate for the naval operations gives those in the field the means needed t
o suppress and deter piracy."

Somalia has been without a functioning government since 1991, when clan warlords ousted longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other. The current government was formed in 2004 with the help of the United Nations, but has failed to protect citizens from violence or the country's poverty.

The Oct. 26 cease-fire agreement, which the UN and the US are promoting, does not include any of Somalia's hard-line opponents who have denounced talks with the government and who are behind much of the bloodshed in Mogadishu.

The Security Council resolution adopted Thursday authorizes a U.N. panel to recommend people and entities that would be subject to an asset freeze and travel ban for engaging in or supporting acts that threaten peace in Somalia, for violating a U.N. arms embargo, and for obstructing delivery of humanitarian aid.

Pirates have attacked a number of cargo ships with food and other items for some 3.2 million needy Somalis.  [21/11/08]