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Egypt Willing to Join UN Force to Fight Pirates Off Somalia

Egypt's government says it would participate in any U.N.-sponsored mission to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia.

Cabinet spokesman Magdy Rady told reporters Wednesday that Egypt is prepared to take part in such a force to protect shipping.

Egyptian officials have expressed concern that piracy in the Gulf of Aden may reduce the number of ships using the Suez Canal, one of Egypt's prime sources of income.

On Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution welcoming efforts by NATO and the European Union to counter the Somali pirates.

Meanwhile, officials in Somalia's Puntland region said they have persuaded pirates to release a Yemeni cargo ship without payment of any ransom.

Ali Abdi Aware, an international relations official in Puntland, told reporters Tuesday that the pirates freed the ship after days of negotiations with local officials.

Somali pirates often receive ransom of $1 million or more for release of a ship.

Somali pirates have hijacked about 40 ships for ransom this year, and currently hold about 15 vessels with their crews.

The ships include a giant Saudi oil tanker carrying two million barrels of oil, and a Ukrainian cargo ship with 33 Russian-made tanks on board.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.