Cautious Welcome

A senior U.N. official has apparently cautiously welcomed news that an anti-piracy force is being created in Somalia but he and U.S. officials say they’re concerned about the degree of secrecy surrounding the undertaking.

An unidentified Muslim country is backing the project and is expected to number up to 1,050 men.

“It’s a good thing that Puntland is training an anti-piracy force,” said Alan Cole, the head of the anti-piracy program at the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. But he said he wants to know the identity of the donor, the laws governing the force, how recruits are screened and the chain of command.

“Those who are providing equipment have a responsibility to make sure those who are going to use it understand the limits of their authority and are properly trained,” Cole said.

Lt. Col. Tamara Parker, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said the U.S. is aware Puntland authorities are contracting with a private security company to assist them in counter-piracy.

“However, we have not been consulted,” Parker emphasized. “We are concerned about the lack of transparency regarding the program’s funding, objectives and scope. We’re also concerned this program could potentially violate the 1992 U.N. Security Council arms embargo on Somalia.”

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