The United Nations says peacekeepers will start leaving Burundi later this month as part of a gradual 12-month withdrawal plan.

The commander of the peacekeeping force, Major-General Derrick Ngwebi, laid out the timetable at a news conference Thursday.

He said 175 troops from Mozambique will be the first to leave, on December 28.

Next to leave will be the Kenyans, followed by the Ethiopians, and then the other nationalities which make up the 5,500 member force.

The force has been in Burundi since 2004, when the government and rebels signed an agreement ending their 12-year civil war.

Some 300,000 people died in the long ethnic conflict between Hutu rebels and the politically-dominant Tutsis.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.