London takes hard look at Somali piracy

Jan. 5, 2012 at 12:35 PM
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LONDON, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- The British government welcomed a panel's support for military engagement in the Gulf of Aden to combat the threat of piracy, the foreign secretary said.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague described piracy off the coast of Somalia as a "major international problem" that not only threatened international trade but efforts to help the war-torn country along the path toward recovery.

A British Foreign Affairs Committee said it welcomed an announcement by Prime Minister David Cameron to permit private armed guards on British vessels in the region.

Hague said he welcomed support for military engagement in the region and for extra-territorial courts to prosecute pirates.

The panel noted that while naval operations and prosecutions have resulted in some progress, they haven't yet contained the problem of piracy off the Somali coast.

The government's policy on the legal use of force, the panel said, lacks critical detail.

Committee Chairman Richard Ottaway said it was regrettable that as much as 2.6 million square miles of ocean were more or less off-limits for commercial shipping.

"Naval forces have had some success but they cannot hope to police such a large area of operation," he said in a statement. "Ship owners must take responsibility for their own protection and the government must let them do so."

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