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Kadhafi wants Somali exclusion zone to fight piracy

kadafiSABRATHA, Libya (AFP) — Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi called on Friday for the creation of a Somali exclusion zone as part of efforts to fight piracy in lawless waters off the Horn of Africa country.

Speaking at an African regional summit, Kadhafi said he will “submit to the world a plan consisting of respecting the economic waters of Somalia in exchange for an end to piracy.”

He described pirates who have attacked dozens of ships over the past year as “poor Somalians who are defending their wealth.”

“They are not pirates but people who are defending their rights.”

Kadhafi also accused unnamed “foreign countries of pillaging” Somalia’s wealth.

Warships operating under US, European Union and NATO commands, as well as independent vessels from nations including China and Russia, are currently operating in the troubled region in a bid to thwart piracy.

Calls for more concerted action have risen as attacks off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden have escalated this year.

Piracy watchdogs say there have been 114 attempted hijackings so far in 2009, compared with 111 during all of 2008.

Kadhafi was speaking at the opening of a two-day summit of the 28-member Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) in the Libyan city of Sabratha, a UNESCO World Heritage site west of Tripoli.

He said Africa needs an organisation such as Frontex — the EU agency specialised in border security — to protect “our maritime wealth” and warned against the spread of piracy.

The 11th CEN-SAD summit is also due to discuss the conflict between Sudan and neighbouring Chad, according to a copy of a draft agenda obtained by AFP.

Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir — who is facing an international arrest warrant for alleged warcrimes in Darfur — and his Chadian counterpart Idriss Deby Itno are among the heads of state attending the summit.

Each country has accused the other of backing rebels against their respective governments, and Kadhafi said the dispute “should be resolved by force and the imposition of sanctions.”

He did not elaborate, except to say that he was counting on Beshir and Deby’s “wisdom to assume their responsibilities toward their peoples and the peoples of Africa.”

CEN-SAD groups Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, the Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Togo and Tunisia.



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