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Britain, Somalia in anti-pirate talks

LONDON, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- Britain is holding talks with Somalia aimed at allowing Royal Navy warships to enter Somali territorial waters to fight Gulf of Aden pirates, sources say.

Officials from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office are discussing terms of a possible agreement with Somali government leaders, which reportedly envision the Royal Navy turning over captured pirates to Mogadishu, The Times of London quoted unnamed sources as saying.

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The newspaper reported the British government is becoming increasingly alarmed about the threat to shipping in the vital sea lanes off Somalia's coast. Military officials say $18 million has been paid out to Somali pirates this year, up $3 million from 2007, with some estimates putting the figure as high as $30 million.

The Royal Navy is currently empowered to come to the aid of anyone under pirate attack in international waters, but is not authorized to arrest suspected pirates and hand them over to police in other countries, the newspaper said. Under the proposed agreement with Somalia, Royal Navy officers reportedly could board, seize, detain and arrest suspected pirates in Somali waters.

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