Germany says the United States wants it to take command of a naval surveillance mission in the Horn of Africa aimed at preventing fugitive al-Qaida fighters from escaping to Somalia.

On Saturday, the German defense ministry confirmed a report of the request, due to be published Monday in "der Spiegel" magazine. Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping is to discuss the matter during talks with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Washington this week.

The United States fears the lack of central authority in Somalia could make it an ideal haven for al-Qaida terrorists.

About 12-hundred German navy officials are already in the east African country of Djibouti, carrying out patrols in the Red Sea, along the Somali coast and in the Gulf of Aden.