Saudi FM: oil supertanker hijacking 'outrageous'

November 18, 2008 7:11:00 AM PST
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister condemned the "outrageous" hijacking of a Saudi oil supertanker by Somali pirates and said Tuesday that his nation would join the international effort to eradicate piracy. The MV Sirius Star was seized Saturday far off the Kenyan coast and was being taken to the Somali port of Eyl, one of the African country's main pirate ports.

In the Saudi government's first public comments on the attack, Prince Saud Al-Faisal said piracy is a complex problem that requires an international response.

"This outrageous act by the pirates, I think, will only reinforce the resolve of the countries of the Red Sea and internationally to fight piracy," he said during a visit to Athens. "Piracy is against everybody. Like terrorism it is a disease that has to be eradicated."

The tanker's owner says the ship is fully loaded with crude - a cargo worth about $100 million. Its owners say the ship's 25 crew members are safe.

Saud said Saudi Arabia would join an international initiative against piracy in the Red Sea area, where more than 80 pirate attacks have been registered this year.

Last month, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved resolutions calling on nations to send naval ships and military aircraft to Somalia's coastline, and allowing foreign powers to enter Somali waters to fight piracy.

"This is an initiative in which we are going to join and so are many other countries of the Red Sea," Saud said. He did not elaborate.

A NATO flotilla of seven ships - destroyers from the U.S. and Italy, frigates from Germany, Greece, Turkey and Britain - and a Russian missile frigate are already fighting piracy around Somalia. NATO, however, says its priority is escorting World Food Program ships that deliver basic rations for 3 million hungry Somalis.

India says it is sending warships to the area, and South Korea is considering dispatching vessels.

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