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Island Nations Plan Joint Naval Force to Fight Somali Pirates

Four Indian Ocean island nations and the French territory of Reunion plan to form a joint naval force to help combat pirates from Somalia, and they want the European Union to finance it, the foreign minister of Comoros said.

Comoros, Mauritius, Madagascar, the Seychelles and France’s Reunion territory are negotiating the formation of the force, Fahmi Said Ibrahim El Maceli said late yesterday in an interview in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. They have already approached EU officials about possible funding, he said, declining to mention how much money they are seeking or the initial EU response to their request.

The force, if it took shape, would be one of the first efforts by a group of countries in Africa or the Indian Ocean region to jointly police the seas to counter the threat from pirates based in Somalia. The force would supplement a naval mission from the 27-nation EU that has patrolled the seas off the Horn of Africa since December 2008, Maceli said.

The U.S. leads a separate fleet from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and individual warships from countries such as Russia, China, India, Japan and Malaysia have also contributed warships to the anti-piracy campaign.

“We have started on the plans to have a common force to patrol our waters,” said Maceli, who was in Kampala for a meeting of African Union officials that ends today. “We want to have a common solution to this piracy problem.”

Economic Hardship

The four island nations and Reunion want to create their own force “as soon as possible” because of the threat Somali pirates pose to their economies. Insurers, for example, are charging higher rates for commercial ships that transport goods to Comoros and its neighbors, and this creates financial hardships for local populations, he said.

“We have already asked the European Union to help with funding so that we get rid the region of pirates,” he said. “We have asked for both funds and military aid for this task.”

Details of the force will be determined after funding is secured, the minister said.

Somalia is in its 19th year of civil war and hasn’t had a functioning central administration since the overthrow of former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

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