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Gov't advisor: Slight chance of ICJ hearing cancellation

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    Last Update: 01/02/2004 08:28 Gov t advisor: Slight chance of ICJ hearing cancellation http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/389190.html By Aluf Benn, Shlomo
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 31, 2004
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      Last Update: 01/02/2004 08:28

      Gov't advisor: Slight chance of ICJ hearing cancellation
      By Aluf Benn, Shlomo Shamir and Sharon Sadeh, Haaretz Correspondents, Haaretz Service and Agencies

      There is only a slight chance that the International Court of Justice hearing on the West Bank
      security fence will be canceled at this stage, Foreign Ministry legal advisor Alan Baker said

      Baker's comments came after officials at the United Nations indicated Friday that they cannot ignore
      the objections that more than 30 countries submitted regarding ICJ's authority to rule on the fence,
      and said that the hearing itself was in doubt.

      Fifteen members of the European Union and 10 members-in-waiting, as well as the United States,
      Canada, Australia, Russia, South Africa and Senegal joined Israel in submitting affidavits to the
      ICJ opposing the hearing. Several EU countries, including Germany, France and the United Kingdom,
      submitted their own separate affidavits to the court.

      It was significant, if somewhat surprising, that so many countries submitted objections, said Baker.
      But he said it doesn't necessarily mean the hearing will be called off at this stage.

      "The chances [of cancellation] are very slight," said Baker. "Maybe at the end. We have to go
      through the whole process."

      Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Saturday that he hoped that the objections filed would convince
      the court to cancel the hearing on the fence "because it is a political, not judicial issue."

      Most of the countries who have called into question the authority of the court have also voiced
      concerns about the route of the fence where it strays from the Green Line into the West Bank. The EU
      has also expressed its opposition to the route of the barrier.

      Israeli officials said they were pleased that most of the world's important democracies shared
      Israel's stand against the authority of the international court, despite the dispute over the fence
      route. The officials said that it was significant that countries who had abstained from the UN vote
      on the hearing, have now decided to submit affidavits objecting to the hearing.

      In a statement to the Hague-based court, which is due to convene February 23 to discuss the issue,
      the U.S. said Friday that the issue of the fence was a political dispute, and should be resolved
      through negotiations between the two sides.

      The American comments reflect earlier statements by Jerusalem and London questioning of the
      authority of the court.

      "We believe that the court should not and cannot deal with this political issue, which has to be
      dealt with by direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians," said an official at the
      Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem after Israel filed its affidavit.

      Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat said he was angered by U.S. and British opposition to the
      World Court hearing on the legality of the fence.

      "I cannot understand it," Erekat told The Associated Press. "We seek to use diplomacy against the
      wall in going to the (United Nations) Security Council and the court of justice, and we find these
      countries, the U.S. and Britain, trying to shut the door in our faces."

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