The U.N. Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing member states to fight pirates in Somali territory by land, sea and air.
Resolution 1851 takes current anti-piracy measures a step further, authorizing states with permission from Somalia's transitional federal government, to "undertake all necessary measures in Somalia" to pursue and capture pirates or armed robbers.
The United States drafted the resolution, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice led the delegation during the vote. She welcomed the adoption of the measure.
"The Security Council adopted Resolution 1851 which is a very strong resolution that deals with issues of detention of pirates, with prosecution of pirates, with the ability to use all necessary means on land as well as at sea, because we know from history that it is not really possible to contain this problem just as a maritime issue," said Condoleezza Rice.
Secretary Rice said there is a need for more intelligence and information sharing, and the United States would lead a contact group on Somali piracy.
Repeating the common concern that the root cause of the piracy problem is the instability in Somalia, Secretary Rice said it is time to consider an African Union request to send a U.N. peacekeeping mission to that conflict torn country.
"While conditions may not be auspicious for peacekeeping, they will be less auspicious if chaos reigns in Somalia and we have to turn at some point to peacemaking," said Ms. Rice. "Prevention is the issue here."
Piracy off Somalia's 3,000-kilometer coastline has become a serious problem, with more than 40 ships and their crews seized this year.
The United States, the European Union and several other nations have sent naval ships to patrol the unsafe waters and to escort humanitarian and commercial ships off the Somali coast.
But the pirates continue to brazenly attack vulnerable vessels.
Just hours before the Security Council adopted the new resolution, an Indonesian tugboat and a Turkish cargo ship were hijacked in the Gulf of Aden.
Resolution 1851 is the fourth Somalia anti-piracy resolution the council has passed this year. While it gives additional powers to member states, the resolution makes clear that it applies only to the Somalia problem and does not set a precedent for international maritime law.