WORLD> Africa
Feuding Somali politicians 'fuel piracy' - AU diplomat
(China Daily)
Updated: 2008-11-21 07:42

The growth in piracy off Somalia is being aggravated by the country's feuding politicians and the United Nations should send peacekeepers there quickly, the African Union's top diplomat said Thursday.

Gunmen from the chaotic Horn of Africa country grabbed world headlines with Saturday's spectacular capture of a huge Saudi Arabian supertanker loaded with $100 million worth of oil, the biggest ship hijacking in history.

Jean Ping, chairman of the African Union Commission, said the increasing piracy was "a clear indication of the further deterioration of the situation with far-reaching consequences for this country, the region and ... international community".

Somali pirates are arraigned in the law courts of Kenya's coastal town of Mombasa, November 18, 2008. [Agencies]

Scores of attacks in Somali waters this year have driven up insurance costs for shipping firms, and even made some companies divert cargo around South Africa's Cape of Good Hope.

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Forces from NATO, the European Union and elsewhere are trying to protect vessels on one of the world's busiest shipping routes, linking Europe to Asia.

Some nations seek a more robust response and say the hijackings will continue without political reconciliation onshore, where an Islamist insurgency rages.

Moscow has suggested international forces should help it attack the pirates' land bases. A Russian news agency said on Thursday that more Russian warships would go to the region.

At an emergency meeting on piracy in Cairo, however, an Egyptian government spokesman said African countries were unable to deal with the attacks and needed foreign intervention.

The Russian navy said Thursday that Russia will keep a warship off the coast of East Africa to patrol against Somali pirates.

This month one of its destroyers, the Neustrashimy (Fearless), scared off pirates trying to capture ships in the Gulf of Aden.

The oil tanker MV Sirius Star is pictured at anchor on November 19, 2008 off the coast of Somalia. [Agencies]

"After the Neustrashimy, ships from other fleets of the Russian navy will head to the region," Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky said.

In another development, NATO is committed to helping improve security in Africa but expects African states to take the lead in fighting piracy off the continent's shores, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said late on Wednesday.

De Hoop Scheffer was responding to a call by Ghana's defence minister for closer collaboration between African regional bodies and NATO to combat piracy off Africa's coasts and tackle other security problems such as money laundering.

The NATO chief spoke during an international alert over piracy off the Horn of Africa, where Somali pirates have caused havoc in one of the world's busiest shipping lanes connecting Europe to Asia and the Middle East.