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Meeting to address concerns over pirates

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Top officials from 24 countries are expected to descend on U.N. headquarters to discuss countering the growing threat of piracy off the Somali coast.

Ongoing government instability in Somalia has prompted an increase in the number of pirate attacks off the country's coast in the Gulf of Aden. Somali pirates hijacked more than 100 vessels in 2008, including a Saudi supertanker carrying 2 million gallons of oil.

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The escalating violence off the Somali coast has threatened ships carrying humanitarian aid to the country and disrupted international shipping lanes. In December the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1851 to counter piracy threats and establish the Contact Group on Somali Piracy who will meet for the first time in New York Wednesday.

The CGSP, which will include participants from five multilateral organizations and representatives from 24 countries, will be chaired by Mark Kimmitt, U.S. assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, the State Department reported.

Officials say the meeting is expected to address "coordinating activities between states and organizations to suppress piracy off the coast of Somalia," the release said.

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