Colombia says won't apply U.N. court ruling until rights defended

BOGOTA Thu Nov 29, 2012 11:52pm GMT

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos gestures as he speaks during a news conference at the Sao Bento palace in Lisbon November 15, 2012. REUTERS/Hugo Correia

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos gestures as he speaks during a news conference at the Sao Bento palace in Lisbon November 15, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Hugo Correia

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BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia will not apply a U.N. court ruling shifting some of its resource-rich waters to Nicaragua until the Andean nation is sure that "the rights of Colombians are well defended," President Juan Manuel Santos said on Thursday.

The Hague-based International Court of Justice reduced a large expanse of sea belonging to Colombia last week, drawing the border in favour of Nicaragua while giving a small cluster of disputed islands to Bogota in a binding ruling.

Both countries have warships in the area.

"I'm not going to apply that ruling by the court in The Hague until guaranteeing that the rights of Colombians are well defended," Santos said in a speech. "I am going to set out, morning, noon and night, to ensure that we recover the rights that were violated."

It was not clear if Santos was saying that Colombia would not abide by the ruling at all nor what measures he would seek to fight the decision. Officials at the president's office did not immediately respond to attempts to seek clarification.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has said he expects Colombia to recognize the court's ruling, but experts say Bogota could reject it and seek to negotiate a new border pact.

On Wednesday, Colombia withdrew from a treaty that bound the country to the U.N. court's decisions, but the move does not have retroactive impact.

Nicaragua's economic exclusion zone in the Caribbean was expanded by the ruling, giving it access to potential offshore oil and gas deposits as well as fishing rights.

(Reporting by Jack Kimball; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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