The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Friday to authorize 1,600 international police and 34 military liaison officers for a follow-on mission in East Timor — but no troops.
A U.N. political mission had been scheduled to shut down on May 20 of this year. But violence erupted in East Timor in March after then-Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri fired about 600 soldiers, sparking clashes between rival security forces in the capital that later spilled into gang warfare, looting and arson.
The Security Council extended the mandate of the political mission until Aug. 20, and then for another week because of division among council members over whether foreign troops helping to restore security at the government's request should become part of a new U.N. peacekeeping mission or operate without a U.N. umbrella.
Australia, which is leading a multinational task force that includes troops from New Zealand, Portugal and Malaysia, told the council it was prepared to continue the current arrangement and finance it, an offer supported by the United States, Britain and Japan. Other council members backed East Timor's call for a U.N. military contingent.
Ghana's U.N. Ambassador Nana Effah-Apenteng, the current council president, said including a military contingent in the new U.N. Integrated Mission in East Timor, which will be known as UNMIT, was dropped because of the differences.
"... Ideally it would have been better to have a military component, but this was not acceptable to all the members of the council," he said.
The council supported the deployment of international security forces by Portugal, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia.
The council authorized the new mission to deploy up to 1,608 police personnel, and an initial component of up to 34 military liaison and staff officers for six months.
Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony of East Timor in 1975 and ruled the tiny half-island territory until 1999, when a U.N.-organized plebiscite resulted in an overwhelming vote for independence. Withdrawing Indonesian troops and their militia auxiliaries destroyed much of the country's infrastructure and killed at least 1,500 people.
The United Nations sent a peacekeeping force and administered the territory for 2 1/2 years, then handed it to the Timorese on May 20, 2002.