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U.S. wants pursuit of pirates inside Somalia

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States wants U.N. authority for countries pursuing pirates off the coast of Somalia to hunt them down on land, according to a draft resolution circulated at the United Nations on Wednesday.

U.N. diplomats said the U.S. delegation had drafted the text, which it hoped would form the basis of a resolution for the Security Council to approve next week, when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be at the world body for talks on African and Middle East issues.

A surge in piracy in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes has pushed up insurance costs, brought Somali pirates tens of millions of dollars in ransom and prompted foreign navies to rush to the area to protect merchant shipping.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who will both be in New York on Monday, may also attend the Somalia talks, which are scheduled for Tuesday, diplomats said.

“There is complete council solidarity and consensus on the importance of dealing with the piracy problem and thwarting it, and dealing with it with every tool at our disposal,” said U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Alejandro Wolff.

“Clearly this implies both at sea and, if needed, with the consent of the Somalis, on land,” he told reporters.

The resolution, a draft of which was seen by Reuters, says countries with permission from Somalia’s government “may take all necessary measures ashore in Somalia, including in its airspace” to capture those using Somali territory for piracy.

It was not clear what form that Somali consent would take. The country has been in virtual anarchy since the collapse of a dictatorship 17 years ago.

Islamists now control most of the south. Feuding, heavily armed clan militias hold sway in many other areas and a weak, Western-backed interim government has little authority outside the capital, Mogadishu.

It was also not clear what kind of force would be permitted for countries in “hot pursuit” of pirates that decide to bring the chase onto dry land. It was also unclear if the U.S. military would participate.

There are already several international naval operations in the area in the Horn of Africa, including a NATO anti-piracy mission, but the piracy has continued.

The European Union agreed on Monday to launch anti-piracy naval operations off Somalia involving warships and aircraft.

Editing by Peter Cooney