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Falklands oil row dialogue sought by Argentina

Port Stanley, capital of the Falkland Islands
Argentina believes the UK is illegally occupying the Falklands

Argentina has said it wants dialogue with the UK in the row over planned British oil drilling around the Falkland Islands.

Deputy Foreign Minister Victorio Taccetti added that Argentina could do little beyond the new controls it had imposed on shipping to the islands.

The UK has said the oil exploration conforms to international law.

An oil rig from the UK has arrived in the Falklands' waters, with drilling due to begin on Sunday.

Earlier this week, Argentina announced that special permits would be required by all ships heading from its ports or through its waters to the Falklands.

Buenos Aires is also hoping its neighbouring countries will co-operate to impose South America-wide restrictions.

Mr Taccetti said: "We are trying to convince the British that it is in their interest to negotiate with Argentina.

"This is not an escalation, this is just something that we have to do in order to protect our rights - because we consider that this exploration and eventual exploitation of our natural resources is illegal."

He said Argentina would use "all the legal means to restrict the access to the islands from the continent", but added: "I don't think we can go much further."

Geologists say there could be rich energy reserves in the ocean bed surrounding the British Overseas Territory of the Falklands.

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I do not think that we should negotiate on anything, not even a share of any potential oil
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But Argentina claims sovereignty over the islands, which it calls Islas Malvinas.

'Properly protected'

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband has said all British oil exploration in the area is "completely in accordance with international law".

The rig, the Ocean Guardian, has been travelling from Invergordon in the Cromarty Firth since November.

Owner Desire Petroleum said its rig "has not gone anywhere near Argentine waters", and it had therefore not sought permission from the Argentine government.

The rig will be tethered about 60 miles off the islands over the weekend before drilling begins on Sunday.

The Falklands Legislative Assembly said that Argentina's bid to disrupt oil exploration was "no surprise" but "nonetheless disappointing".

The statement added that "all the supplies the industry needs are located here in the islands" and drilling would begin as planned next week, "weather permitting".

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said the government has "made all the preparations that are necessary to make sure the Falkland islanders are properly protected".

Argentina invaded the Falklands in 1982, before a UK taskforce seized back control in a short war that claimed the lives of 649 Argentine and 255 British service personnel.

Last year, Argentina submitted a claim to the United Nations for a vast expanse of ocean, based on research into the extent of the continental shelf, stretching to the Antarctic and including the Falklands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands - all UK territories.

It is due to raise the issue at the UN next week.



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