The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday urged states - with naval ships deployed around the Horn of Africa - to commit naval and air assets to the fight against rampant piracy off lawless Somalia, with France saying this meant that force can be used against the pirates.
The 15-member Council unanimously adopted the resolution under Chapter Seven of the U.N. Charter, which is invoked in cases of threats to international peace and security.
Resolution 1838 "calls upon all states interested in the security of maritime activities to take part actively in the fight against piracy on the high seas off the coast of Somalia, in particular by deploying naval vessels and military aircraft."
The French-drafted text urges states with naval vessels and military aircraft operating on the high seas and airspace off the Somali coast "to use the necessary means, in conformity with international law, for the repression of acts of piracy."
It again "condemns and deplores all acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea against vessels off the coast of Somalia."
France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert immediately welcomed the unanimous adoption of the text, saying it sends "a clear signal to the pirates."
His South African counterpart Dumisani Kumalo urged the council not to lose sight of the bigger picture in Somalia, referring to the unresolved civil war.
He said hijackings would continue until there was stability in Somalia. But stability would not come until the council sends peacekeepers, which it has been reluctant to do in the face of escalating violence.
"The issue in Somalia is the conflict. Until you address the issue inside Somalia you will always have piracy," he told reporters.
Until you address the issue inside Somalia you will always have piracy,
South African UN Ambassador
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters he was in talks with countries that might offer troops to a U.N. peacekeeping mission but gave no details.
"We need to set to work on a plan for deploying a viable multinational force to help secure a peace, or at the very least sustain its people," he said.
An understaffed and struggling African Union peacekeeping mission has also urged the United Nations to take over.
Aid groups have scaled down operations inside Somalia because of growing insecurity largely blamed on Islamist militants who have waged a guerrilla war since they were ousted last year in a joint Somali-Ethiopian offensive.
Last June, the 15-member Council had already adopted a resolution empowering states to send warships into Somalia's territorial waters with the government's consent to combat piracy and armed robbery at sea.
The new resolution has no time limit but otherwise differs little from the one passed in June.
The June resolution had given a six-month mandate to states cooperating with Somalia's transitional government (TFG) in fighting piracy to "enter the territorial waters of Somalia for the purposes of repressing acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea."
The waters off Somalia - which has not had an effective central government for more than 17 years and is plagued by insecurity - are considered to be among the most dangerous in the world.
Dozens of ships, mainly merchant vessels, have been seized by pirates off Somalia's 3,700 kilometers of largely unpatrolled coastline.
The pirates operate high-powered speedboats and are heavily armed, sometimes holding ships for weeks until they are released for large ransoms paid by governments or owners.
Tuesday, pirates holding a Ukrainian ship carrying tanks and military hardware with 21-member crew off the coast of Somalia said that a deal could be reached on Wednesday for the vessel's release. Pirates have been holding the Ukrainian MV Faina since September 25.