The United Nations Security Council Tuesday said it will complete the transfer of security responsibilities to East Timor's defense forces by mid-2004.
U.N. officials have expressed concern over the pace of the development of a judicial system in East Timor. Nevertheless, they cite the progress achieved by the small island nation as a reason to withdraw U.N. peacekeepers on schedule.
East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia in 1999 and was administered by the United Nations until last May.
After a private meeting, Security Council President, U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, announced that East Timor has started to take over security responsibilities from the United Nations.
"Particularly with respect to the peacekeeping forces, the security capabilities, the police forces and so forth," he said. "There is a training schedule and all and we believe that those are all on track. This is not to say that there will not be economic assistance needs and other development needs for East Timor."
Mr. Negroponte says that steps have been taken to establish East Timor within the international community, including joining the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
East Timor remains a poor nation, dependent on foreign investment as it tries to build its economy. East Timor is hesitant to become a full member of ASEAN, the Association of South East Asian Nations, because of the cost of setting up embassies in member countries. However, East Timor is expected to become a full member of the United Nations in September.