Middle East

EU set to back strikes on Somali pirate lairs

BRUSSELS: The European Union will likely approve plans Friday to strike Somali pirate equipment on beaches, widening the scope of its naval operations four years into a mission to protect shipping.

Germany had voiced reservations about plans to allow EU warships to fire at trucks, supplies, boats and fuel stowed on the coast of Somalia, but a minister indicated Thursday that Berlin would now back the plans.

"I expect that we will find a consensus," German deputy defence minister Christian Schmidt told reporters on arrival for a meeting of EU defence ministers in Brussels.

The decision is expected to be taken when EU foreign ministers meet Friday, one day after the defence chiefs, EU officials said.

The expanded mandate, however, will have to be submitted to the German parliament for approval, he added.

The ministers will also formally approve the extension of the EU mission, Operation Atalanta, until December 2014.

EU officials have stressed that the new mandate would not call for the deployment of troops on the ground in Somalia.

Nine EU naval ships are currently operating off the Horn of Africa, escorting vessels carrying humanitarian aid to Somalia and policing the key shipping route to thwart pirate attacks.





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