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World Court Rules on Costa Rica-Nicaragua Dispute

Nicaragua's Carlos Jose Arguello Gomez and his legal team await the start of the ruling on Costa Rica's request for emergency measures amid a border dispute with Nicaragua at the International Court of Justice, The Hague, March 8, 2011

The United Nations' highest court has ordered Costa Rica and Nicaragua to keep their security forces out of a disputed border region along the San Juan River that separates them.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague issued its ruling Tuesday. The decision came two months after Costa Rica appealed to the judicial body to order Nicaraguan personnel away from the mouth of the river and halt dredging operations there to avoid environmental damage. Costa Rica says the operations were illegally set up on its territory, while Nicaragua claimed it had long exercised sovereignty over the disputed area.

In its ruling, the court ordered both countries to "refrain from any actions which might aggravate or extend the dispute." The court, however, did not halt dredging operations by Nicaragua and rejected Costa Rica's argument that the work was damaging to the environment. The ruling did allow Costa Rica to send civilian personnel into the area to protect the environment.

Both countries previously had said they would respect the court's decision.

Also Tuesday, the Organization of American States welcomed the court's ruling and called on both governments to resume dialogue on the subject and pave the way for a solution to the problem that separates them.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.