19/11/08 (B474) AFP : Le ministre saoudien des A.E. condamne le développement de la piraterie, qu’il assimile au terrorisme. ///Saudi minister condemns ‘disease’ of piracy

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal compared piracy to a disease in comments to reporters Tuesday during a visit to Greece, reacting to the hijacking of a Saudi oil tanker by Somali pirates.

"Piracy, like terrorism, is a disease which strikes blows to the whole world," Prince Saud told reporters in Athens after a meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis.

"Obviously it is a very dangerous thing. Fortunately international initiatives have been taken to tackle it," he added.

Bakoyannis said Greece, whose ship owners collectively have the largest fleet in the world, would send a frigate and a helicopter as their contribution to a new European Union force set up to fight piracy in the region.

Pirates seized control of the Saudi-owned super tanker Sirius Star and captured its 25-strong crew off the east coast of Africa.

The vessel, the size of three football pitches, is carrying two million barrels of crude oil worth as much as 100 million dollars (80 million euros).

The largest ship ever to be seized by pirates, it was headed for the Somali port of Eyl, according to the US Navy.

Sirius Star, which is owned by Saudi giant oil company Aramco, carries crew members from Croatia, Britain, the Philippines, Poland and Saudi Arabia, said a a US Navy statement.

As many as 83 foreign-registered ships have been attacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden this year, according to the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization — already double 2007’s total.

Pirates captured three Greek-owned vessels off the coast of Somalia in September.

The European Union last week approved its first ever naval mission, aimed at tackling the growing threat from the Somalia pirates.

Dubbed Operation Atalanta, the new European force, which is acting on the strength of a UN anti-piracy resolution, will be made up of at least seven vessels supporting by airborne patrols.

It may integrate vessels from Britain, Greece and Italy already patrolling the waters and could also cooperate with a Russian frigate patrolling in the region as well as Indian presence there.