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UN council backs peacekeeper cutback in Cyprus
Updated: 2004-10-12 08:50

Security Council members on Monday backed U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's call for a sharp cutback in the U.N. peacekeeping force on the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus, council diplomats said.

Annan last month recommended that the number of U.N. soldiers on the island be reduced to 860 from the current 1,230 after concluding the security situation had become "increasingly benign" in recent years.

During a closed-door discussion of Annan's findings, none of the council's 15 members objected to the cutback, and Britain, the council president for October, said it would draft and circulate a resolution making the cut, diplomats said.

No date was set for a vote, however.

The force, known as UNFICYP, has been in Cyprus since 1964 and patrols a 110-mile (180 km) "green line" that separates Turkish Cypriots in the north and Greek Cypriots in the south.

The mission's current annual budget is $52 million, although Greece and the Cyprus government voluntarily pick up nearly half the cost. Annan said the troop cuts would save money, but the amount would not be known for some months.

The force was deployed to quell the outbreak of violence between the two Cypriot groups in 1964. Turkey invaded the northern third of the island 10 years later, after a Greek Cypriot coup in Nicosia engineered by the military then ruling Greece.

Cypriots started to mingle freely in April 2003 after Turkish Cypriot authorities eased restrictions on people crossing from one side to the other.

But efforts to reunite the island ground to a halt after Greek Cypriots rejected Annan's reunification blueprint last April, leaving the internationally recognized Cypriot government in the south to enter the European Union May 1.

Some council members then argued that scarce U.N. resources and the Greek Cypriots' "no" vote called for a reexamination of the mission's mandate.

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