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US signing agreement to deter Somali pirates

UNITED NATIONS – The United States is signing onto an international plan to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia, committing itself to a leadership role to protect one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.

The so-called “New York Declaration” being signed by U.S. Deputy Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo and her counterparts from China, Britain, France and other powers is an attempt to pool resources and agree on the best ways of deterring the Somali pirates who prey on vessels passing between Europe and Asia.

Though it is a nonbinding political document, proponents say it will commit ship registry nations to adopt “best management practices” for ship security such as increased lookouts, raised ladders and emergency fire pumps readied to repel boarders.

It was first proposed in May by Panama, the Bahamas, Liberia and the Marshall Islands, four of the world’s biggest ship registries.

In Washington, Andrew Shapiro, the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, said at the ComDef 2009 defense policy conference Wednesday that the document represents what Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has called “a 21st century solution to the 17th century problem” of piracy.