* World Court last year granted disputed waters to Nicaragua
* Colombia disputes ruling, says inapplicable
* Colombia has ruled out resolving dispute through war
(Background, political context)
By Helen Murphy
BOGOTA, Sept 9 Colombian President Juan Manuel
Santos said on Monday he will do everything in his power to
prevent Nicaragua's "expansionist" ambitions over domestic
territory and called an international court ruling that gave
waters to Nicaragua inapplicable.
After years of diplomatic wrangling, the International Court
of Justice in November drew a demarcation line in favor of
Nicaragua, reducing the expanse of ocean belonging to Colombia
and sparking a diplomatic dispute that led both sides to send
armed vessels to patrol the contested waters.
Colombia has been angered by Nicaraguan President Daniel
Ortega's plans to allow foreign companies to explore for oil in
Caribbean seas that Colombia maintains are its own and Santos
has ordered his navy to remain in the disputed waters.
Santos said Nicaragua also wants to push its maritime
borders closer to the historic city of Cartagena.
"Colombia is confronting, and will confront, such
expansionist pretensions with all the determination and rigor it
requires," Santos said in a televised national address.
"What I guarded as a sailor and defended as a minister, I
will protect until the ultimate consequences as president," said
Santos, a former defense minister and navy cadet.
Describing the court ruling as "not applicable," Santos said
he would oppose any attempt by Nicaragua to extend its sea
frontier toward Colombia and has a series of technical and
judicial arguments ready to press its case, which he declined to
Any sign that Colombia is headed for victory in the dispute
could give a boost to Santos whose approval ratings are just 21
percent, according to a recent Gallup opinion poll. He must say
by November whether he will run for a second presidential term
in elections next May.
In a strongly worded address sure to raise the hackles of
leftist Ortega, Santos said the ruling would only be applicable
if it was accompanied by an international treaty which would be
subject to congressional approval required by Colombia's
The government has already withdrawn from the so-called
Bogota Pact, a treaty under which signatory countries agreed in
1948 to recognize rulings by the International Court of Justice
and to find peaceful solutions to their conflicts.
Santos, 62, a Harvard-educated scion of one of Colombia's
most influential families, stopped short of saying he would not
abide by the ruling and he has stated in the past that Colombia
would not go to war to resolve the dispute.
The Hague-based World Court's decision increased the size of
Nicaragua's continental shelf and economic exclusion zone in the
Caribbean, which gives it access to underwater oil and gas
deposits as well as fishing rights.
Ortega has already begun to carve up areas to offer for oil
and gas exploration, enraging Colombians. But he has also
indicated he may be willing to discuss the maritime boundaries
set out in the court ruling.
In 2007 the court ruled that three large islands in the
maritime area - San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina -
belong to Colombia. The islands are a popular holiday
destination for Colombian and foreign tourists.
(Additional reporting by Peter Murphy; editing by Christopher