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France OKs armed guards

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The government of France says it will allow private armed guards to protect its shipping fleet against pirate attacks. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said armed private security detachments would put the French fleet on par with European competitors who have already taken similar measures.



France is one of the main contributors to an international naval force that patrols the Gulf of Aden and the northwestern Indian Ocean to deter attacks by pirates based in Somalia.



“We will allow recourse to private teams capable of complementing the navy’s missions,” Ayrault told a journalist for the French newspaper Ouest France. “There has been a strong appeal from shipowners and we have heard it.”



Britain, Germany and the United States all allow armed private security teams on vessels sailing under their flags.



While it has become standard for ships to have defenses against piracy, there are still no industry guidelines or even agreement among countries on the use of lethal force by anti-piracy teams, whether military or private.



“It has been two years since we asked for this, so we really welcome the government’s decision,” said Eric Banel, head of Armateurs de France, the lobby for French shippers.

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