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UN Votes to Pull Peacekeeping Force from Chad

The United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously to pull out the 3,300-strong U.N. peacekeeping force operating in Chad and the Central African Republic, near the border of the Sudan's war-torn Darfur region. The withdrawal is expected to be completed by year's end.

The 15-member Council's vote Tuesday followed recommendations laid out by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who called for the first reduction in troops by July 15. The final withdrawal of the remaining troops will begin on October 15 of this year.

The U.N. mission in Chad was created in 2007 to protect refugees who had fled the war in Darfur.

Chad has said it wants to take over security in the region, calling the force a failure. The region is currently home to an estimated 250,000 refugees from Darfur as well as hundreds of thousands of Chadians.

Austrian Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting said the Council would have preferred an even more gradual draw down of troops. "We respect the decision of the government of Chad to assume full responsibility for the security and protection of the civilian population in Eastern Chad, including refugees, internally displaced persons and host communities," he said.

The resolution calls for a joint team of U.N. and Chadian officials to routinely check on those living in the region.

Amnesty International Tuesday urged the Council to keep the force in Chad, saying the withdrawal will put the safety of thousands of refugees and others at risk.