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East Timor bids farewell to peacekeepers after 13 years

Published on Dec 31, 2012 6:06 AM
This file photo taken on July 23, 2002 shows United Nations Peacekeeping Forces (UNPKF) from Thailand taking part in a ceremony to mark the handover responsibility between UN peacekeeping troops and East Timor armed forces in Los Palos. The UN winds up its peacekeeping mission on December 31, 2012 after 13 years in Asia's youngest nation East Timor, with the country hoping to overcome its bloody past and rampant poverty to stand on its own feet. -- PHOTO: AFP

DILI (AFP) - The UN ends its peacekeeping mission in East Timor on Monday after 13 years of boots on the ground in Asia's youngest nation following a bloody transition to independence.

The mission, which saw the presence of some 1,500 UN troops and police, will take down its flag and send home the last of its peacekeepers, including five Portuguese officers, while a "liquidation team" of 79 will remain to tie up loose ends. 

The mission began withdrawing troops in earnest in October when national police resumed responsibility for security, following the peaceful election of a new president and parliament. "The Timorese people and its leaders have shown courage and unswerving resolve to overcome great challenges," United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) chief Finn Reske-Nielsen said in a statement.

"Although there remains much work ahead, this is an historic moment in recognising the progress already made." Mr Reske-Nielsen said the withdrawal did not mark an end to the partnership between the UN and the country, officially called Timor-Leste, as "challenges still remain".

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