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Monday, May 16, 2005 > Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore to meet over Malacca Strait security

Description of Selected NewsMalaysia, Indonesia, Singapore to meet over Malacca Strait security

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) -- The foreign ministers of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore will meet in June to map new strategies to guard ships against piracy in the busy Malacca Strait, Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said.

Malaysia's Syed Hamid said the three littoral states would also discuss the controversial issue of mercenaries hired by seafarers to provide armed escorts.

"We do not want such private escort services to continue. If every ship starts carrying weapons, it can lead to an uncontrollable situation which is very dangerous," he was quoted as saying by the Bernama news agency Saturday.

Malaysia and Indonesia had objected to the presence of private armed escort ships in the narrow waterway.

Syed Hamid said the meeting would be held on Indonesia's Batam island.

Malaysia said Saturday would launch its new maritime agency established to fight piracy, illegal fishing and environmental pollution in November.

The country has recently come under pressure from the United States and Japan to beef up security in the Malacca Strait after a spate of recent pirate attacks.

The narrow 960-kilometre-long (600-mile) strait, bordered by Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, is one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

The strait is used by about 50,000 ships a year carrying a third of world trade and half its oil supplies. The attacks have led to concerns the waterway and adjoining Singapore Strait are also vulnerable to terrorists.

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