European Union forces are set to step up their mission fighting piracy off the Horn of Africa, with EU ministers likely to sign off on beach bombardments and attacks on other land-based targets.
Germany had voiced opposition to widening the scope of Operation Atalanta, but was believed to have since dropped resistance to the plan.
"Military officers say they want to render harmless the ships on the beach that could be used. This was a convincing argument," German Deputy Defense Minister Christian Schmidt said after a meeting of EU defense chiefs in Brussels on Thursday.
The ministers sought to dispel any talk of European troops on the ground in Somalia, insisting instead that an expanded mission would consist of warship and helicopter strikes on land targets.
"We made clear that this should be limited actions against assets on the edge of the beach. Piracy must be fought at sea," Schmidt said.
Warships and helicopters will have "very well-defined conditions" for firing at pirate equipment in order to avoid harming people, a European official said, noting that Germany and other nations wanted strict rules of engagement.
EU foreign ministers are to address the matter on Friday and are expected to sign off on the new plan. Germany, however, must first submit the proposal to parliament for approval, Schmidt added.
The Atalanta fleet is soon to grow from six to nine vessels. It is expected that the foreign ministers will also formally approve an extension of the mission through to December 2014.
dfm/ng (AFP, dpa)
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