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UN Security Council to vote on EU naval mission

The UN Security Council is set to vote on a draft resolution on Friday authorizing an EU naval mission to intercept and seize migrant trafficker vessels in the Mediterranean. The EU launched the mission this week.

The resolution would provide UN approval, and possibly greater legitimacy, to the European naval mission launched this week to board, search and seize vessels suspected of trafficking migrants in international waters from Libya to Europe.

The British-drafted resolution is not mandatory for Operation Sophia, launched on Wednesday, which involves warships from several European states. The EU hopes to dismantle the refugee trafficking networks, save lives and dissuade potential asylum seekers from making the dangerous journey on rickety boats.

It is uncertain how veto-wielding Russia will vote. The country's UN ambassador earlier expressed concern over the resolution being drafted under chapter 7 of the UN charter, which authorizes the use of force.

Moscow is wary of granting the naval mission too much authority and has demanded specific language in the resolution. Russia has accused the West of using a 2011 UN Security Council vote to protect civilians in Libya to back rebels and oust Moammar Gadhafi.

That intervention destabilized Libya and helped foster the current refugee crisis and proliferation of human traffickers.

Several African nations and Venezuela on the 15 member security council also opposed the European plan due to initial objections from Libya. However, that opposition appears to have dissipated after Britain submitted a letter on Tuesday showing Libya's internationally recognized government giving its support.

The resolution covers the second phase of a three phase plan that could eventually see European warships intercepting and seizing boats in Libyan territorial waters. That would require the permission of Libya's government.

Europe is also pinning its hopes on Libya's warring factions implementing an agreement reached on Thursday to form a national unity government that would help stabilize the country. The EU has committed to provide financial and political support to the new government if the agreement is implemented.

More than 500,000 migrants have taken the dangerous sea journey to reach Europe this year, while thousands have died.

cw/jr (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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