Subject: RT: UN council divided on East Timor peacekeeping plan

UN council divided on East Timor peacekeeping plan

By Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 18 (Reuters) - A divided U.N. Security Council on Friday put off for a week a decision on how to structure a new peacekeeping mission for East Timor following violence in May that killed at least 20 people.

A resolution adopted unanimously by the 15-nation council extended until Aug. 25 the mandate of the existing U.N. mission. Without the vote, the mandate would have expired at the end of the day.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended earlier this month the deployment of nearly 2,000 U.N. troops and police as part of the new mission.

It would take over peacekeeping duties from an Australian-led international force sent in to restore peace in Asia's newest state after a wave of clashes and arson attacks.

But Australian Ambassador Robert Hill told the council on Monday that his country wanted to retain control of the force's military component, and would assume the cost as well.

Several council members endorsed that idea but others opposed it, including permanent members China, France and Russia, who argued for a U.N. force, diplomats said.

Council members then agreed to give themselves another week to reach a consensus, and Japan is expected to propose a new draft resolution early next week, they said.

East Timor was plunged into violence after then-Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri dismissed 600 soldiers from its 1,400-strong army for mutiny when they protested over alleged discrimination against soldiers from the west of the country.

A new government was sworn in a month ago.

A former Portuguese colony 1,300 miles (2,100 km) east of the Indonesian capital Jakarta, East Timor was occupied by Indonesia at the end of 1975. It became independent in 2002 after being run by the United Nations for two-and-half years following an independence referendum in August 1999.

U.N. peacekeepers were active in the country during the years of U.N. administration, but the Security Council ordered the mission to be gradually phased out after independence. The May violence prompted U.N. officials to warn of the potential risks of ending peacekeeping operations too soon.

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