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PORT LOUIS (Reuters) - Mauritius is ready to try and jail suspected pirates, Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam said on Saturday, joining three other countries in the region that have shown interest in doing the same.
Rampant piracy off the coast of Somalia has made it the world's most dangerous shipping lane and earned Somali sea bandits tens of millions of dollars in ransoms and raised insurance premiums for ships.
International navies trying to counter piracy off Somalia are often reluctant to take suspects to their own countries because they either lack the jurisdiction to put them on trial there, or they fear the pirates may seek asylum.
Often pirates arrested on the high seas are returned to Somalia's lawless shores.
"During a meeting with Baroness Catherine Ashton, European Union representative for foreign affairs and security policy, I have expressed our wish to try and judge suspected pirates," Ramgoolam told reporters.
Mauritius joins Kenya, Seychelles and Tanzania in saying they are ready to prosecute pirates.
Kenya has borne the brunt of taking in and prosecuting sea bandits seized by foreign navies patrolling the Gulf of Aden's busy shipping lanes that link Europe with Africa and Asia.
Ramgoolam said Mauritius needed to play a more active role in fighting piracy in the region, given its impact on security, fishing and tourism.
However, he said Mauritius needed financial assistance and training.
"We need the help of EU as we must set up a special prison to detain pirates captured on the Indian Ocean as I don't want them to get mixed up with our local detainees," Ramgoolam said.
Pirates continue to outwit an international patrol of warships, forcing some shipping companies to re-route around southern Africa while others employ private armed guards.
Somali pirates are holding at least 11 ships. On Friday, they released British-flagged vehicle carrier Asian Glory after a ransom was paid.