Swiss may send soldiers 'to guard ships' off Somalia

Switzerland is considering using soldiers "to protect Swiss ships" from pirates off Somalia, President Pascal Couchepin was quoted as saying on Sunday.

Swiss may send soldiers 'to guard ships' off Somalia
Couchepin, who is also interior minister, said the Swiss cabinet had not taken a final decision on the question, but its position was clear.

"We are ready in principle to send Swiss soldiers to Somalia," Swiss weekly SonntagsZeitung quoted him as saying.

"You can't ignore this problem. Now we have to clarify what legal, financial and practical consequences this would have."

A Swiss freighter was pursued by pirates off the Somali coast last week, but they abandoned the chase, Swiss weekly NZZ am Sonntag reported.

Couchepin did not give details of the possible operation, which could involve putting Swiss troops on Swiss ships, or deploying them in the troubled Horn of Africa state.

The SonntagsZeitung said the Swiss cabinet was considering whether Switzerland should take part in an anti-piracy air-sea operation off the coast of Somalia that the European Union agreed to launch earlier this month. In return the EU would escort Swiss ships.

On Tuesday the U.N. Security Council authorised countries "fighting piracy off the Somali coast" to take action inside the country and in its airspace, with the consent of the government.

Pirates have caused havoc in one of the world's busiest shipping lanes this year, hijacking dozens of ships, including a Saudi Arabian supertanker loaded with $100 million worth of oil.

Last Mod: 21 Aralık 2008, 17:17
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