New York- The UN blue berets are still needed in Timor Leste, said United Nations' Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a report to the Security Council.
He warned against any "premature" departure, saying that the still-fledgling nation needs international help in areas such as managing the border withIndonesiaand developing its police force.
"The achievements that the people of Timor-Leste (East Timor) have made in building their own country in the short period since 1999 are truly remarkable,"MrAnnan said in a report to the council.
"Nevertheless, the need to continue to support Timorese institution-building efforts remains critical so as to protect the gains made until now," he said.
Mr Annanrecommended that the 15-nation council extend a scaled-down peacekeeping mission for one year until May 2006. TheSecurity Council voted last year for what was supposed to be a final extension of the mission until Maythis year.
East Timorgained independence in May 2002 after more than two years of UN administration, 24 years of often brutal occupation byIndonesia, and colonisation byPortugalbefore that.
There are 477 UN military personnel in the peacekeeping mission, which had more than 10,000 when it was first established in 1999. Mr Annan proposed slashing that number to 179, in addition to a small contingent of civilian advisers.
* UN's Annan asks to extend peace mission in E Timor (Antara, Feb 24)