Sun, Jul 04, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Israel announces that it won't accept World Court ruling

REUTERS , WASHINGTON

Israel's foreign minister said on Friday his government would not accept a World Court ruling on its West Bank barrier, insisting the Jewish state "can deal with this issue by itself."

The International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, will render its judgment on the legality of the West Bank network of fences and walls on July 9, in one of the most high-profile rulings in its 58-year history.

"We believe that Israel can deal with this issue by itself," Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said after talks at the White House.

"We can't accept any external involvement from the International Court of Justice."

"We don't believe it is the place that this issue should be discussed. It should be discussed between the two parties -- the Israelis and the Palestinians -- with other members that are involved in the peace process," he said after meeting with US national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Shalom cited Israel's decision this week to reroute part of the disputed barrier after the country's highest court ordered changes to prevent Palestinians from being cut off from their farms, schools and cities.

The World Court said it would hand down an "advisory opinion." Such a ruling is nonbinding, but Israel fears the General Assembly, where pro-Palestinian sentiment is strong, could use it to lobby for sanctions against the Jewish state.

Shalom said he was asking the US to do "everything it can" to block any resolution on the barrier that the Palestinians might bring to the UN Security Council.

Israel says the barrier has been built to keep Palestinian suicide bombers out of its cities. Palestinians call the structure -- which cuts deep into the West Bank in places -- a land grab that would thwart their dream of a viable state. The court held hearings on its legality in February.

Shalom, speaking to reporters, also called for stepping up pressure on Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons programs.

He said the International Atomic Energy Agency should decide at its September board meeting to put the nuclear issue before the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

"We should stop them. The sooner the better," Shalom said.

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