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UN gives OK to land, air attacks on Somali pirates
Updated: 2008-12-17 15:45

UNITED NATIONS – On the same day Somali gunmen seized two more ships, the UN Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize nations to conduct land and air attacks on pirate bases on the coast of the Horn of Africa country.

China's Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs He Yafei votes during a United Nations Security Council meeting to address piracy off the coast of Somalia at the UN headquarters in New York December 16, 2008. [Agencies]  

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was on hand to push through the resolution, one of US President George W. Bush's last major foreign policy initiatives.

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Rice said the resolution will have a significant impact, especially since "pirates are adapting to the naval presence in the Gulf of Aden by traveling further" into sea lanes not guarded by warships sent by the US and other countries.

The council authorized nations to use "all necessary measures that are appropriate in Somalia" to stop anyone using Somali territory to plan or carry out piracy in the nearby waters traversed each year by thousands of cargo ships sailing between Asia and the Suez Canal.

That includes the use of Somali airspace, even though the US appeased Indonesia, a council member, by removing direct mention of it, US officials said.

Somalia Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Jama, whose government asked for the help, said he was "heartened" by the council action. "These acts of piracy are categorically unacceptable and should be put to an end," he said.

The resolution sets up the possibility of increased American military action in Somalia, a country where a US peacekeeping mission in 1992-93 ended with a humiliating withdrawal of troops after a deadly clash in Mogadishu, as portrayed in the movie "Black Hawk Down."

The commander of the US Navy's 5th Fleet expressed doubt last week about the wisdom of staging ground attacks on Somali pirates. Vice Adm. Bill Gortney told reporters it is difficult to identify pirates and said the potential for killing innocent civilians "cannot be overestimated."

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