By Tarek el-Tablawy

United Nations - The Security Council has unanimously approved a resolution cutting the number of peacekeepers deployed in Eritrea and Ethiopia by at least one third while extending UN mission's mandate for another four months.

The reduction from 3 500 to 2 300 came after the United States sought a cutback because Ethiopia and Eritrea made no progress in talks on resuming talks on the demarcation of their border.

The talks, held in London earlier in May, were aimed at breaking the deadlock between the two countries and the international Boundary Commission, which is charged with marking the border between the two Horn of Africa nations.

Eritrea has repeatedly ignored council demands that it lift restrictions on UN helicopter flights on its side of a buffer zone separating the two countries. Ethiopia, similarly, has rejected calls to abide by the deal that awarded the key town of Badme to Eritrea.

The resolution approved Wednesday stressed the council's "unwavering commitment to the peace process, and to the full and expeditious implementations of the Algiers Agreements ... as a basis for peaceful and cooperative relations between the parties."

The Algiers Peace Agreement ended a two-year border war between the countries in 2000.

The resolution authorised the "reconfiguration of UNMEE's military component and in this regard approves the deployment within UNMEE of up to 2 300 troops" including 230 military advisers.

While the cut in troop level indicates a partial victory for the United States, another proposal put forward by US Ambassador John Bolton to reclassify the force as an observer mission was not included in the resolution. It authorised the troop deployment "with the exiting mandate."

Relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia have been consistently strained since Eritrea gained its independence from the Addis Ababa government in 1993 following a 30-year guerrilla war. - Sapa-AP