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THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Judges at the United Nations' highest court ruled on Thursday they have the authority to adjudicate in a maritime boundary dispute between Kenya and Somalia involving stretches of the Indian Ocean that are potentially rich in oil and gas deposits.

Siding with Somalia, the International Court of Justice rejected Kenya's argument that existing agreements between the two countries amounted to a commitment to settle their boundary disputes outside the court.

The ruling means a boundary case brought by Somalia against Kenya can continue, a process that may take some years.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Writing by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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