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UN Ends Peacekeeping Mission in East Timor

Australian troops accompany U.N. officials leaving East Timor through Dili's airport, December 31, 2012.
The United Nations has ended its peacekeeping mission in East Timor, 13 years after it was deployed to cope with a wave of violence in Asia's youngest country.

In recent weeks, members of a security force numbering more than 1,600 have been leaving, ahead of the formal end of the mission that began in 1999.

President Taur Matan Ruak, in a New Year's Eve speech, said East Timor is now enjoying peace and stability. This was a pivotal year, with East Timor holding peaceful presidential and parliamentary elections.

A small UN presence will remain in East Timor to wrap up the withdrawal.

The former Portuguese colony achieved independence in 1975, but was occupied for 24 years by Indonesia, until voters chose independence in a UN-administered referendum in 1999. Pro-Indonesian militants began a bloody campaign of retribution leading to the introduction of the Australian-led Stabilization Force.

In 2002, East Timor was internationally-recognized as independent and, despite intermittent violence, Timor-Leste, as it is also known, has been relatively peaceful.