October 3, 2008

EU Ministers to Set Up Somalia Anti-Piracy Unit

World in brief

DEAUVILLE The European Union has agreed to establish an anti- piracy operation off Somalia. The French Defence Minister Herve Morin said at least nine countries had agreed yesterday to take part after Somali pirates seized a Ukrainian ship laden with tanks last week and demanded a $20m (11m) ransom for its release. The announcement came after EU defence ministers met at Deauville, in northern France. "There is very broad European willingness. Many countries want to take part," said M. Morin, adding that the operation could be launched next month. The shipping lane in the Arabian Sea between Yemen and Somalia links Asia to Europe via the Suez Canal and is critical to Gulf oil shipments. Somali pirates are now holding 13 vessels captive with more than 200 sailors. According to the Somali government, the gang holding the Ukrainian-registered MV Faina are negotiating with its owners. The vessel, carrying 33 Russian T-72 tanks, rifles and grenade-launchers, is lying off the coast surrounded by US warships, which are not allowing the heavy weapons to be unloaded. A Russian frigate, reportedly with commandos on board, was approaching the area to join the blockade last night.

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