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UN calls for global action to tackle piracy in Somalia
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The UN-backed international conference on piracy entered its second day in Nairobi on Thursday with participants decrying surge in piracy and called on world to curb the menace along the coast of Somalia.

UN Special envoy for Somalia Ahmedou Ould Abdallah appealed to the international community to help stabilize the war-torn nation, saying piracy is a result of an almost nonfunctioning government in Somalia.

Abdallah told over 140 participants attending the meeting that the threat of piracy cannot and should not be underestimated anymore, noting that addressing the vice requires identifying and targeting the perpetrators and their associates.

"Countries that can do so, should trace, track and freeze the assets of the backers of pirates. They deserve to be brought to justice and prevented from harming their country, its economy and reputation. Impunity and lack for human rights have no doubt encouraged piracy," said the envoy.

Over the last two months, said Abdallah, pirates have attacked more than 32 vessels, hijacked 12 including a larger oil supertanker and taking hostage about 230 crew members from different nationalities.

Abdalla expressed concern that the unprecedented rise in piracy was threatening the freedom and safety of maritime trade routes, affecting not only Somalia region but also a large percentage of world trade.

"They may have collected over 120 million US dollars for this year, with total impunity. This unprecedented rise in piracy is threatening the very freedom and safety of maritime trade routers, affecting not only Somalia and the region but also a larger percentage of world trade," he said.

He said the UN Security Council has adopted significant resolutions on the issue which calls upon states and regional organizations to take part actively in the fight against piracy and armed robbery at seas off the coast of Somalia.

Abdalla said the European Union's Operation Atalanta which was launched on December 8 aims at protecting navigation against piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia.

"This is very important initiative which deserves support from other concerned trade parties. I would like to commend France, chair of the EU for its commitment to fight piracy," Abdallah said and welcomed the Red Sea technical conference on piracy held in Cairo last month that pledged to cooperate in confronting the vice.

The pirates' focus has been the Gulf of Aden, between Somalia and Yemen, where 20,000 merchant ships a year pass on the way in and out of the Suez Canal, the quickest route from Asia to Europe and the Americas.

The two-day conference brings together officials from more than 40 countries, as well as representatives from regional and international organizations. The first day brought together technical experts, ministerial-level meetings are scheduled for Thursday.

The conference is seeking to develop an improved approach to pursuing, arresting, and charging pirates.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime is reported to have proposed a 1.3 million dollars program to enhance justice and law enforcement efforts in Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania, and Yemen.

The meeting began just one day after the European Union outlined a new security mission off the coast of Somalia. Operation Atalanta joins existing deployments from NATO, Russia, and other countries that have sought to combat a sharp rise in piracy in the area in recent months.

(Xinhua News Agency December 12, 2008)

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