Page last updated at 00:03 GMT, Thursday, 11 December 2008

US gets tough on Somali pirates

By Laura Trevelyan
BBC News, UN headquarters, New York

Somali pirates (file picture)
Piracy has grown increasingly lucrative in Somalia

Foreign troops supporting Somalia's government should be allowed to capture Somali pirates on land, according to a draft UN Security Council resolution.

The draft has been circulated by the US and seen by UN diplomats in New York.

Currently countries are allowed to hunt down pirates in Somalia's territorial waters but not pursue them on land.

Piracy off Somalia's coastline is rife - 120 attacks have been reported in 2008, and at least 16 ships are still being held, including a Saudi tanker.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution in June allowing countries operating with the consent of Somalia's transitional government to go into Somalia's territorial waters and use force to capture pirates.

Now the US is proposing stronger measures.

Security Council diplomats say an American-drafted resolution suggests countries should be able to pursue pirates onto land if necessary, providing the Somali government agrees.

America's deputy ambassador at the UN, Alejandro Wolff, said that given the threats posed by pirates no stone would be left unturned on this issue.

It is not clear how much support this proposal will have - Russia and China are traditionally cautious about interfering in the affairs of other nations.

US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, will be at the UN next Tuesday for a meeting on piracy, and US diplomats hope the resolution will be adopted then.

In its final weeks, President Bush's administration is also pushing for an international peacekeeping force to be sent to Somalia.

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon suggested a coalition of the willing should be assembled rather than a conventional UN peacekeeping force, as there is no peace to keep in Somalia - so far countries have not volunteered to send their troops.

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