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France will train Somali troops

FRANCE will offer to train Somali forces and the United States will send its top Africa envoy to an international conference on Somalia next week as the world tries new initiatives to stabilize the country and quash piracy off its coast, officials said yesterday.

The European Union said donors are expected to pledge at least 200 million euros (US$262 million) to bolster Somalia's fledgling security forces as they confront militancy and escalating piracy.

France will offer to train a 500-strong Somali battalion in neighboring Djibouti, Foreign Ministry spokesman Frederic Desagneaux said.

Pirate attacks continued off the Horn of Africa even as new plans were announced. Pirates unsuccessfully tried to hijack the cargo ship MV Puma in the Gulf of Aden yesterday, according to Per Nykjaer Jensen, chief executive of the Danish owner Shipcraft.

A boat with five armed pirates tried to board the ship about 7am but failed after the ship zigzagged and an emergency flare was fired in the direction of the pirates, Jensen said. A helicopter from the multinational anti-piracy force in the area was able to chase them away.

Jensen also said the three Danes and four Filipinos on board are fine.

The ship was almost empty and was on its way back to Europe from Singapore.

The US pressed Somalia late on Thursday to root out the pirates menacing the seas off the Horn of Africa.

Somalia's Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke said he could go after them if other nations give him the resources he needs.


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