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 Thursday, 9 January, 2003, 13:56 GMT
Court ruling on Singapore Strait islet
Pulau Batu Putih or Pedra Branca
The disputed islet is no bigger than a football pitch
Malaysia and Singapore are to sign an agreement to refer a territorial dispute over a tiny island in the Singapore Strait to the International Court of Justice at the Hague.

The decision ends months of wrangling over where and when to sign an agreement over the island - known as Pulau Batu Puteh to Malaysia, and as Pedra Branca to Singapore.

The football-field sized-island, on which Singapore maintains a lighthouse, is significant for its strategic position.

The dispute is one of several that have soured relations between Malaysia and Singapore since they separated in 1965, after a brief union following their independence from Britain.

Long-running dispute

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar and his Singaporean counterpart, S Jayakumar, will sign the agreement to refer the dispute to the ICJ on 6 February in the Malaysian administrative capital of Putrajaya.

The dispute first surfaced in 1979 when Malaysia contested Singapore's sovereignty of the islet, along with two adjacent rocky outcrops.

Malaysia says it has had sovereignty over the islet since the early 16th century, but Singapore argues that is has exercised sovereign rights there since the 1800s, when the British colonial government occupied it and built Horsburgh lighthouse there.

The ICJ is due to hear the case in three years' time.

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17 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
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