New York - The UN Security Council on Monday backed a cut of more than 50% in the size of the UN peacekeeping force in Liberia as it pressed the government to take greater control of security.
The force, sent in 2003 as part of efforts to end more than a decade of civil war in the West African country, will be cut over the next three years from about 8 500 troops and police to 3 750.
A Security Council resolution passed on Monday authorised the cut called for by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who wants to reduce many peacekeeper operations around the world.
About 2 000 troops will leave over the next year and the proportion of police will increase as the drawdown continues in future years.
More than 250 000 people were killed in the civil wars from 1989 to 2003 and while tensions remain on the Ivory Coast, UN officials say there has been a dramatic improvement in security conditions in Liberia in recent years.
A resolution which extended the peacekeeping force, known as UNMIL, for another year to September 30 2013, called on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's government to make an "intensified effort" to take over security responsibilities from the UN force.
It said the government must "address the critical gaps" in the transition process and put more priority on national reconciliation and human rights, "strengthen democratic institutions and extend state authority and services throughout the country".
The Security Council said that instability in neighbouring Ivory Coast poses a threat to both countries and that the two governments must step up cooperation in monitoring their border and making sure that rebels do not take shelter on either side.