UN reduces peace force on Cyprus

The United Nations Security Council yesterday slashed the number of UN peacekeepers on Cyprus by about one third, backing a recommendation by Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The council voted unanimously to reduce the roughly 1,200-strong UN force, which has been on the island since 1964, to an overall strength of 860 military personnel. Annan said in a report to the council that the situation was stable enough to warrant a cutback in troops, while the UN remains concerned about the escalating scope, number and cost of peacekeeping missions around the globe. At the same time, the council extended the mandate of the Cyprus mission until mid-June 2005. Meanwhile, Cypriot officials denied yesterday’s assertion, by visiting British Minister for Europe Dennis MacShane, that Nicosia had assured him it would not block Turkey’s EU accession. «Cyprus does not wish to use the veto, but reserves the right to do so if Turkey does not fulfil its legal obligations toward Cyprus,» presidential spokesman Marios Karoyan said. (AFP, AP)