THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- In a historic ruling against the United States, the World Court Thursday ordered the Reagan administration to stop mining Nicaraguan harbors and giving military aid to anti-Sandinista rebels.
'The United States of America should immediately cease and refrain from any action restricting, blocking or endangering access to or from Nicaraguan ports, and in particular, the laying of mines,' said Judge President Taslim Olawale Elias of Nigeria in a ruling accepted by all the court's 15 judges.
In Washington, the State Department said the United States 'respects the rule of law' and would accept the ruling ordering a halt to U.S. activities directed against Nicaragua's leftist government.
But U.S. officials pointed out the court has yet to rule on the more important issue -- the U.S. argument that for two years it will not accept the court's jurisdiction on matters regarding American moves in Central America.
Nicaragua said in filing the suit last month that the United States violated international law by mining Nicaraguan ports and financing guerrillas seeking to topple the country's leftist Sandinista government.
The complaint coincided with revelations the CIA had been directing the mining and other rebel attacks against Nicaragua's government, which the administration accuses of sending arms to leftist rebels in El Salvador.
In Washington, State Department spokesman John Hughes said 'there is nothing inconsistent with the court's ruling and current U.S. policy.' An official said the statement could mean the United States is not 'currently' laying mines in Nicaraguan waters.
There was a hushed silence in the Great Hall of Justice as Elias ruled against Washington in the first case filed against the United States by a Third World nation.
It was also the first time that the court, in the 62 years it has considered disputes between nations, has been called to give a ruling on a conflict still in progress.
'The right of sovereignty and to political independence possessed by the Republic of Nicaragua, like any other State of the region or of the world, should be fully respected and should not in any way be jeopardized by any military and paramilitary activities which are prohibited by the principles of international law,' the verdict said.
The verdict was only an interim ruling pending final judgment in the case at a date still to be set by the court.
Lawyers of both nations were present for the verdict: Nicaragua's ambassador to The Netherlands, Carlos Arguello, and State Department Legal Advisor Davis R. Robinson, who said, 'I have no comment at all at this stage.'
But Arguello said, 'Either the United States obeys the decision, or it becomes an outlaw government -- a government that does not abide by the decisions of the highest legal authority in the world.'