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    EU to Train Somali Security Forces

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    The European Union plans to train hundreds of Somali security forces and possibly expand its anti-piracy mission off Somalia's coast in an effort to bring stability to the war-torn Horn of Africa nation.

    The agreement to train Somali forces was reached during a meeting of European Union defense ministers in Brussels. The details of the plan remain sketchy, but the idea is to train the Somalis in Uganda in close collaboration with the Ugandan government - a main supplier of African Union peacekeeping troops in Somalia.

    At a press conference on Tuesday, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said up to 2,000 Somali security forces had requested special training to fight against a growing armed insurgency in Somalia.

    "How much we're going to do [train] and how much it's going to be [must be discussed] with the forces of the African Union and Uganda in particular is something to be discussed. and the same thing goes with the duration," he said.

    "Then what is the speed of the distribution of tasks between Ugandan trainers and our trainers. But it will not be a big operation in the sense it will not require trainers in the thousands. It will probably be in the hundreds, not the thousands," he added.

    EU officials say they do not believe the Somali operation will dilute separate efforts to build up a European police training mission in Afghanistan.

    The EU also plans to extend its anti-piracy mission Operation off Somalia's shores into 2010. Solana said the 27-member bloc is also considering broadening the operation to target Somali ports and so-called "mother ships" that provide support to the pirates.

    "Now some ideas have been placed on the table on making some focalization of the ports in which we know the pirates operate and something with the mother ships, which are really deep into the sea, where...some pirates get their help from there," he said. "This is going to analyzed by the military authorities and by us to see if something can be done."

    Somali pirates have attacked hundreds of vessels in recent years and they are now expanding their terrain. On Tuesday, an EU naval force reported that Somali pirates had captured a chemical tanker with a North Korean crew off the Seychelles Islands. Separately, Spain announced Somali pirates had release a trawler after holding a crew of 36 hostage for more than six weeks.

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