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China to aid Somalia anti-piracy force, says diplomat.

UNITED NATIONS: China has agreed to cooperate with a coalition of naval forces combating rampant piracy off the coast of Somalia, a top Norwegian official said here Thursday.

Norwegian foreign ministry official Carl Salicath made the announcement on the first anniversary of the establishment of the so-called Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS).

He said China and a coalition of multinational forces -- including from NATO, the European Union and the US-led Combined Maritime Forces -- engaged in anti-piracy operations off Somalia "have agreed on a mode of cooperation."

"The Chinese delegate heralded this as a very important step foward. I absolutely agree with him. This will make the patrolling more efficient," Salicath, who chairs the CGPCS, added.

The Norwegian diplomat expressed hope that other nations with naval forces in the area would follow China's lead in cooperating with the multinational anti-piracy naval coalition.

Late last month, a top Chinese naval official proposed setting up a permanent base to support ships on an anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden, raising the idea that China could build foreign bases elsewhere.

In an interview posted on the Chinese defense ministry website, Yin Zhuo -- an admiral and senior researcher at the navy's Equipment Research Center -- said such a base would bolster China's long-term participation in the operation.

Yin's proposal came after a Chinese cargo ship and its crew of 25 were rescued from Somali pirates, following the payment of a 3.5-million-dollar ransom to their kidnappers.

China has sent four flotillas to the region since the end of 2008.

The CGPCS brings together Australia, Belgium, Britain, China, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, South Korea, The Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the United States, Yemen, the African Union, the European Union, the International Maritime Organization, NATO and the Arab League.

About 130 delegates several countries and organizations attended Thursday's CGPCS meeting.

"We think that we have achieved a lot during that year but of course there is a lot to do in the years to come," Salicath said.

He said a major achievement was that the vast majority of vessels plying the dangerous waters off Somalia were now following so-called "best management practices" put forward by the group last August.

These include: minimizing external communications to essential safety- and security-related communication; increasing lookouts/bridge manning; securing and controlling access to the bridge, engine room, steering gear room, and all accommodation /internal spaces; making sure that all ladders and outboard equipment are stowed or up on deck and using dummies at the rails to simulate additional lookouts and creating a water curtain around the vessel to further deter boarding; considering using razor wire/physical barriers around stern/lowest points of access, commensurate with crew safety and escape; providing night vision optics for use during the hours of darkness and using light, alarm bells and crew activity to alert suspected pirates that they have been detected.

Captain Paul Chivers, chief of staff of the EU naval operation code-named Atalanta off Somalia told reporters that although "the number of (pirate) attacks has gone up considerably in the Somali basin, the number of successful attacks has gone down."

Meanwhile UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe, in remarks delivered to the meeting, said that despite a decline in the rate of successful pirate attacks, "piracy continues to expand further out to sea, at times more than 1,000 nautical miles from the coast of Somalia."

"These developments highlight the limits of an exclusively sea-based approach and emphasize the need for the international community to continue to deal with the issue of piracy in a comprehensive, cohesive and broad-based approach'," Pascoe added.

Daily NewsEgypt 2009

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Publication:Daily News Egypt (Egypt)
Date:Jan 31, 2010
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