The peace-keeping mandate is usually extended at six-monthly intervals,

but Ramos-Horta has also asked for it to be extended for a year instead.

 

He argued the usual six-month extension to the peacekeeping mandate meant that those working in East Timor would search for other jobs after three months in case a renewal was not forthcoming.

 

Diplomats said negotiations on the length of the mandate were under way.

 

China has objected to a year’s extension to the mandate, arguing that the council would have less oversight, envoys to the UN said.

 

Independence

 

East Timor voted in a 1999 referendum for independence from Indonesia, which annexed its neighbour after Portugal ended colonial rule in 1975.

 

The territory became fully independent in 2002 after a period of UN administration.

 

An east-west divide in the natin of one million people erupted into chaos and gang-related violence in May 2006.

 

Poverty and high youth unemployment plague the country, where more than 100,000 people are displaced.

 

Australia led a 3,200-strong peacekeeping force to Dili to intervene in last year's violence. Canberra still has 800 troops in East Timor, along with 120 New Zealand troops.

 

"The international community has again come to the assistance of the Timor-Leste," Robert Hill, Australia's UN ambassador, told the council.

 

Rezlan Jenie, Indonesia's UN ambassador, told the security council that the United Nations and international community should continue to play a "constructive and nurturing role" in assisting East Timor.