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Pirates move ship towards hotspot

Sirius Star off the coast of Somalia (US Navy image via Getty Images)
The Sirius Star is the largest vessel seized by Somali pirates

The Somali pirates holding the Saudi oil tanker Sirius Star and its crew have moved the ship further north.

The move puts them only 20 miles (32km) from the MV Faina, a hijacked Ukrainian cargo ship carrying tanks.

BBC correspondents say while this puts them closer to US Navy ships shadowing the Faina, the area also has a greater concentration of other pirates.

It comes a day after one of the pirates told the BBC they had no intention of harming the 25 crew members on board.

The man, calling himself Daybad, told the BBC Somali Service via telephone that the pirates had not negotiated with the Sirius Star's owners, but spoken to intermediaries who "cannot be trusted".

The ship's Polish captain was also able to speak to the BBC, although under the scrutiny of his captors.

He said his crew were in good shape and had been allowed to talk to their families. The ship has been held off the Somali coast for the past 10 days.

'Blockade' call

Also on Monday, a group of tanker owners called on the UN to co-ordinate naval patrols off the coast of Somalia.

Our fish were all eradicated so... we're going to fish whatever passes through our sea
Daybad

Peter Swift, head of the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (Intertanko) suggested that warships could begin monitoring vessels leaving Somali waters, rather than attempting to patrol the entire Gulf of Aden and a significant part of the Indian Ocean.

He said many members of Intertanko - which as a group owns 75% of the world's tanker fleet - were considering re-routing their ships around South Africa to avoid pirates, and that this would raise costs by 30%.

Mr Swift said continuing attacks would have a major impact on world trade, but that Intertanko opposed arming merchant ships to defend against pirates.

Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said on Monday that the alliance was not considering any naval blockade of Somalia.

He said that such action had not been endorsed by the UN Security Council and was not on the cards at present.

Nato has four warships on duty in the area.

In another development, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told a meeting of the European Union in Brussels that EU ships patrolling the area would have "robust" rules of engagement and would use force to deter pirates if necessary.

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