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U.S. officials are searching for other means to combat piracy beyond a recently passed U.N. resolution authorizing using military might to address the problem on shore.

U.N. Resolution 1851, unanimously approved by the Security Council earlier this month, authorizes striking at Somali-based pirates with ground, air and naval forces before they take to the seas to hijack commercial ships for ransom.

The resolution, which expires on Dec. 16, 2009, calls for the United Nations to be notified before any attack on pirates is launched while they are ashore.

"It will also enhance cooperation, develop judicial arrangements with regional and victim states to prosecute, and enhance financial intelligence to get after the pirates’ money," said Jun Bando, the U.S. State Department’s maritime security coordinator and liaison to the Africa Command.

"What we are trying to do is have a better understanding of how these ransom monies are moving so we can disrupt the flow," Bando said.

U.N. officials estimated that pirates have made upwards of $120 million in ransom this year, but the exact figure is hard to pin down because some companies and countries refuse to disclose numbers.

Countries combating piracy could also share intelligence to help quash it, Bando added. The State Department has already been coordinating with other countries and with other U.S. departments, including Defense and Justice, she said.

According to a State Department release, the Navy and several NATO countries have warships in the region to carry out the resolution. Russia, China, India and other countries have ships in the area or are sending vessels. The European Union has also launched an operation to combat piracy off the Somali coast.

The U.S. is also studying the idea of a resolution to aid the peacekeeping efforts in Somalia, Bando said. It would give additional resources to the African Union’s peacekeeping mission in the lawless country, she added.

State Department officials could not be reached for comment on any possible involvement by U.S. ground forces in a peacekeeping mission.

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