The UN's highest court on July 18 ordered Thailand and Cambodia to immediately withdraw their troops from a disputed area around an ancient temple on the border between the two Asian neighbours.

The French news agency (AFP) said the decision by the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) came after an urgent request by Cambodia in April, asking the court to order Thailand to withdraw its troops and cease military activity around the 900-year-old Khmer temple of Preah Vihear and the scene of clashes earlier this year.

"Both parties should immediately withdraw their military personnel from the provisional demilitarised zone and refrain from any military presence within that zone," said the order, read by ICJ president Judge Hisashi Owada.

"Having noted that the temple area had been the scene of armed clashes between the parties and that such clashes may reoccur, the court decided there was an urgent need for the presence of all armed forces to be temporary excluded from a provisional demilitarised zone around the area of the temple," he said.

In late April Cambodia launched a bitter legal battle before the ICJ in which it asked for an interpretation of a 1962 ruling on the Preah Vihear temple.

While judges pondered that decision, Cambodia also asked for it to order Thailand to withdraw troops and stop military activity.

Thailand in turn, asked for Cambodia 's request to be scrapped from the court's general list, a request unanimously turned down on Monday.

A decision on Cambodia 's main request for an interpretation of the 1962 order could take the court several months.

Although Thailand did not dispute Cambodia 's ownership of the temple, secured by the 1962 ICJ ruling, both Phnom Penh and Bangkok claim the 4.6 square kilometre area surrounding the Khmer complex.
The court urged the two countries to continue to work with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to come to an agreement and to allow observers representing the 10-nation bloc to have access to the provisional demilitarised zone around the temple./.