World Court to hear Malaysia/Singapore isle dispute

AMSTERDAM - The UN's highest court will launch hearings in November next year to decide the sovereignty of a rocky island at the heart of territorial dispute between Malaysia and Singapore.

After years of talks, the neighbours, which have a history of bickering over issues ranging from water supplies to transport links, agreed in 2003 to refer their dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

"The public hearings in the case ... will open Tuesday, 6 November 2007," The Hague-based ICJ said in a statement.

The rocky outcrop is known as Pedra Branca in Singapore and Pulau Batu Puteh in Malaysia.

The tiny islet is located strategically on the eastern entrance of the Singapore Strait, about 15 km off peninsular Malaysia's southern coast.

Both countries, which split apart in 1965 after a brief union, have claimed that the island lies in their territories.

The ICJ or the World Court, was set up in 1946 to resolve disputes between states. Its rulings are final and cannot be appealed.

The court usually takes several years to rule on border and territorial disputes.


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