Subject: AP: UN Force Begins E. Timor Withdrawal; Ends 5-Yr Mission

UN Force Begins Withdrawal From E Timor; Ends 5-Yr Mission

DILI, East Timor, May 28 (AP)--U.N. peacekeepers marked their withdrawal from East Timor on Friday, winding down a nearly five-year mission that ended Indonesia's brutal occupation and oversaw the birth of the world's newest nation.

In a simple ceremony, 95 personnel who served along the mountainous border with Indonesia were awarded U.N. medals, said Capt. John Mcpherson, spokesman for the peacekeeping force.

The United Nations has been withdrawing its main peacekeeping force of about 3,000 troops since the mandate for their presence ended on May 20. The remaining contingent of about 1,800 soldiers is expected to be drawn down by mid-June, Mcpherson said.

Last month, the U.N. Security Council agreed to a government demand to retain about 700 military and police advisers in East Timor into 2005.

Responsibility for security along the border had already been handed over to the newly established East Timorese Defense Force, which consists of just two regular infantry battalions and two reserve battalions.

Indonesia invaded and occupied the former Portuguese colony in 1975, sparking a guerrilla war which killed up to 200,000 people.

In August 1999, the U.N. organized a referendum on self-determination in which 80% of voters opted for independence. Indonesian troops retaliated by laying waste to the region of 750,000 people. The violence ended with the arrival of international peacekeepers in September 1999.

-Edited by Hilary Mc Cully


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