NATO to back new fleet for anti-piracy missions

June 8th, 2009 - 11:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Brussels, June 8 (DPA) NATO is to launch a new, long-term warship fleet dedicated to fighting piracy off Somalia, a senior US diplomat said Monday.
“We expect a significant effort for a sustained period,” starting as early as July 1, the diplomat said ahead of the Thursday meeting of NATO defence ministers here.

“The US is prepared to play its part, but the amount of what we’re doing will depend on what our partners are ready to do,” he said.

NATO currently has five warships operating in Somali waters to fight the rising tide of piracy in the region. Those ships were diverted from a diplomatic mission to South-East Asia and Australia.

NATO officials say that the world’s premier military alliance should show a stronger long-term presence there at a time when other powers such as Russia, China and the European Union are all sending warships to the region.

However, NATO’s efforts are hampered by legal difficulties, since not all allies have the same rules on what to do with pirates once they are captured.

That has led to cases in which NATO forces have had to release captured pirates in Somalia itself, with no guarantee that they will not take to the sea again.

NATO officials ahead of Thursday’s meeting complained that the EU had solved the problem by offering millions of dollars in development aid to Kenya in return for taking charge of pirates captured by EU vessels - an investment beyond the reach of the military alliance.

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