Nato agrees to send ships to counter piracy

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The Independent Online

Nato defence ministers agreed today to send ships to escort vessels carrying food aid and protect them from piracy off the coast of Somalia, an alliance diplomat said.

The ministers agreed the ships would be sent "soon" and would work with other organizations including the European Union, the diplomat says.

He spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the official announcement of the decision expected later today.

Momentum has been growing for coordinated international action against the growing pirate menace following the seizure late last month of a Ukrainian cargo ship laden with tanks and heavy weaponry.

Several European Union countries last week said they would launch an anti-piracy patrol, and Russia announced it would cooperate with the West on fighting the pirates. US warships, meanwhile, are being diverted from counterterrorism duties to respond to the seafaring bandits.

Details of the Nato plan were not immediately available. The alliance has been running naval patrols in the Mediterranean Sea since 2001 to deter terrorists, and allied military experts have discussed setting up a similar operation off the Horn of Africa.