NATO to boost Med policing

NATO warships patrolling the Mediterranean as part of the alliance’s anti-terrorism campaign are to be given the right to board suspect ships, a high-ranking NATO official told AFP yesterday. «We expect a decision to be announced by the North Atlantic Council soon,» he said on condition of anonymity. The chief of the allied forces in southern Europe, Admiral Gregory G. Johnson, said that the decision was «under consideration» but did not say it had already been made. But his deputy, Ferdinando Sanfelice di Monteforte, commander of the allied naval forces in Southern Europe, implied the forces’ mandate was to be beefed up. «Operation Active Endeavor is going to become more a policing activity than an activity of presence and deterrence,» he said. NATO currently has eight ships on patrol in the Mediterranean as part of Active Endeavor, which, until now, have only had the right to ask merchant vessels to identify themselves. More than 25,000 such requests have taken place since October 2001, when the operation started. (AFP)