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NEW YORK - Several key UN countries, including the United States, are planning to express their reservations about the International Court of Justice at The Hague getting involved in the issue of the separation fence, as requested by the UN General Assembly.

UN sources said yesterday that at least 20 countries regarded as important and influential in the world body will deliver opinions to the court saying that the issue does not belong in the ICJ.

Russia has already decided to do so. The U.S. affidavit is expected to say the fence is a matter for political negotiations and not appropriate for the international court.

A Western diplomat told Haaretz that the number of countries opposed to The Hague hearings could reach as many as 30, depending on whether European Union countries hand in their reservations as a bloc or individually. But none of the countries are expected to express support for the fence along its current route inside the West Bank.

The Hague court has invited all 191 UN member states to express their views on the issue under discussion, with the final deadline for handing in country opinions tomorrow.

The first hearing at the court is slated for February 23, when the justices will decide whether to hear the case or send it back to the UN General Assembly.

With diplomats saying that government decisions regarding their position on issues brought to ICJ often reflect the position of the country's UN delegation, there will be enormous significance to the fact that 74 countries abstained in the General Assembly vote on the Arab proposal to send the separation fence to the international court.

In total, counting the countries that did not vote, as well as those that voted against the Arab proposal, 101 member-states - a majority of UN members - were not in favor of the issue going to The Hague.

Israeli diplomats refused to comment yesterday on speculation about the extent of opposition to The Hague dealing with the separation fence.

But Israeli diplomats are busy trying to persuade counterparts at the UN to convince their countries to issue opinions against the ICJ handling the issue of the fence.