UN Seeks New Players in Battle Against Somali Pirates

A proposed new U.N. resolution calls on all countries with a stake in maritime safety to send naval ships and military aircraft to fight piracy on the high seas off the coast of Somalia, according to a draft obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

The draft Security Council resolution would also call on ships and planes to use "the necessary means" to stop acts of piracy. It was drafted under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, which means its provisions can be enforced militarily.

The French-drafted resolution was expected to be put to a vote in the Security Council early next week, council diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions are taking place in private.

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The draft resolution expresses grave concern at "the recent proliferation of acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea against vessels off the coast of Somalia." It also notes with concern "that increasingly violent acts of piracy are carried out with heavier weaponry, in a larger area off the coast of Somalia" using mother ships and more sophisticated methods of attack,

On Thursday, Somali pirates holding a hijacked Ukrainian cargo ship loaded with tanks and heavy weapons said they will not release it for less than $20 million and warned they would fight back against any commando-style rescue attempts. A half-dozen U.S. navy warships have surrounded the MV Faina, which was seized last Thursday off the central coast of Somalia.

The new draft resolution only applies to pirates off Somalia, whose 1,880-mile coastline is the longest in Africa and near key shipping routes that connect the Indian Ocean with the Red Sea.

Most pirate attacks occur in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, to the north of Somalia. But recently pirates have been targeting Indian Ocean waters off eastern Somalia. More than 60 ships have been attacked in the notorious African waters this year.

The draft resolution says the pirates and robbers pose a "serious threat ... to the prompt, safe and effective delivery of humanitarian aid to Somalia," where as many as 3.5 million Somalis will reportedly be dependent on food aid by the end of the year.

It urges all states and regional organizations to continue taking action to protect U.N. World Food Program maritime convoys, which are vital to bring humanitarian assistance to as many as 3.5 million Somalis who will reportedly be dependent on food aid by the end of the year.

A resolution adopted by the Security Council in May called on states and regional organizations — coordinating with each other and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and with the agreement of Somalia's transitional government — "to take action to protect shipping involved with the transportation and delivery of humanitarian aid to Somalia and U.N.-authorized activities."

Somalia has been in a state of anarchy since warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and warlords turned on each other, sinking the poverty-stricken Horn of Africa nation of 7 million people into chaos.

Islamic militants with ties to al-Qaida have been fighting the shaky transitional government and its Ethiopian allies for control since their combined forces pushed the Islamists from the capital in December 2006.

A resolution adopted by the Security Council in early June authorized countries, for a period of six months, with advance notice, to enter Somalia's territorial waters and use "all necessary means" to stop acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea.

The new draft resolution has no time limit.

It calls on "states interested in the security of maritime activities to take part actively in the fight against piracy on the high seas off the coast of Somalia, in particular by deploying naval vessels and military aircraft, in accordance with international law" and to use "the necessary means."

The new draft says the pirates also threaten international navigation, the safety of commercial maritime routes, and legal fishing.