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The International Court of Justice on Friday awarded Singapore sovereignty over a disputed island at the eastern entrance of the Singapore Straits.

The two-acre island hosts a strategic lighthouse that has been a landmark for 150 years and a beacon of safety for hundreds of ships passing daily.

The U.N.'s highest court, however, gave Malaysia ownership of a smaller uninhabited outcropping. Sovereignty over a third disputed cluster of rocks was left to be determined later between the countries when they sort our their territorial waters, the ruling said.

Malaysia had disputed Singapore's rule of the island listed on most maps as Pedra Branca and known by Malaysia as Pulau Batu Puteh.

Singapore, a former British colony, said it inherited the island, which it said was ceded to the British to build the lighthouse in the mid-1840s.

Malaysia said the sultan of Johor, whose ownership of the island was recognized as early as the 1500s, had merely given the British permission to build and operate the lighthouse but had never given up sovereignty.

The 16-member court agreed that Johor, now a Malaysian state, had historical ownership, but said whether it had legally transferred sovereignty was unclear.

It ruled in favor of Singapore's argument that it had exercised sovereign powers over the rock since 1851, with no protest from Malaysia until 30 years ago.


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