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Last Updated: Friday, 19 October 2007, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
Chile repeats own Antarctic claim
Iceberg in the Southern Ocean   Image: BBC
Claims can be made up to 350 nautical miles off existing territories
The Chilean government has reiterated its own claims to parts of Antarctic territory and waters.

Chile's comments come after the UK government this week announced plans to claim sovereignty over a large area of the seabed around British Antarctica.

The UK move could spark disputes with Chile and Argentina which both regard large areas of the region as theirs.

Countries have until May 2009 to ask the United Nations to consider their right to the seabed.

On Wednesday, the UK Foreign Office said the claim being prepared could extend Britain's stake for Antarctic waters by more than 1m sq km (386,000 sq miles) and was permitted under the Law of the Sea Convention.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said that even if the claim were granted, Britain would not contravene the existing 1959 treaty that prohibits oil, gas and mineral exploitation in Antarctica.

The proposal, she said, was simply to safeguard British interests should the treaty be abolished.

A statement from the Chilean foreign ministry said it was confident Britain, together with all other signatories, would continue to respect the treaty.

The statement added that any British claim "will not affect our country's rights over the said territory and its maritime space".

The UK proposal also brought a response from Argentina.

The foreign minister, Jorge Taiana, speaking in Rome this week, said his country was preparing its own presentation to the UN, " in defence of our national interest and our legitimate sovereign rights".

Argentina's claim would include South Georgia and the Falkland Islands, called Malvinas by Argentina.

Currently, five-sixths of the Antarctic continent is claimed by seven countries and most of the existing British stake is also claimed by either Argentina or Chile.

The move by Britain to extend its territorial reach comes under a UN treaty that allows coastal countries to claim a continental shelf up to 350 nautical miles (640km) off their shores, and the right to explore for natural gas and oil.

Map of Antarctica showing existing British territory

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