updated 12/22/2007 12:48:13 AM ET 2007-12-22T05:48:13

The Security Council voted unanimously Friday to wrap up the U.N. peacebuilding mission in Sierra Leone in September 2008, praising this year's democratic elections and efforts to professionalize its armed forces.

A U.N. peacekeeping force helped put the West African nation back on the path to peace and stability after a bloody 11-year civil war, which lasted from 1991 to 2002. But poverty continues to plague the country, which has some of the world's lowest life expectancy and literacy rates.

The peacekeeping force was replaced in January 2006 by a small peacebuilding mission of about 350 people — mainly civilians — along with 14 military observers and 26 international police.

The resolution adopted unanimously by the council extends the mandate of the peacebuilding mission until Sept. 30, well beyond local elections scheduled for June 21.

It calls for a staff reduction of at least 20 percent by March 31, the continuation of the mission at 80 percent of the current strength until June 30, and the termination of its mandate by Sept. 30.

The council said the peacebuilding mission should be replaced by a U.N. political office "to focus on carrying forward the peacebuilding process, mobilizing international donor support," promoting national reconciliation and constitutional reform, and supporting the work of the U.N. Peacebuilding Commission.

World leaders decided at a summit in September 2005 to establish the Peacebuilding Commission to bring together all the key international players involved in ending conflicts and promoting reconstruction and economic development of countries emerging from war. Sierra Leone and Burundi were the first countries it chose to assist.

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