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London - The war of words between Britain and Argentina over the disputed Falkland Islands flared anew Thursday, with London firmly rejecting the charge of “blatant colonialism” leveled by Argentine President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner.
In full-page advertisements in two leading liberal newspapers in Britain, Fernandez de Kirchner called on Britain to abide by a 1965 United Nations (UN) resolution to “negotiate a solution” over the islands in the South Atlantic.
The Argentine president, who sent the same appeal to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, accused Britain of having taken the islands in a “blatant exercise of 19th century colonialism” in 1833.
Her letter, published on the 180th anniversary of the historic date, received an immediate rebuff from British Prime Minister David Cameron and from the Falkland Islands government.
A spokesman for Cameron said the people of the Falkland Islands had shown a “clear desire to remain British” and the Argentine government should respect their right to self determination.
Argentina should abide by the result of a referendum to be held on the status of the Falklands in March, said the spokesman. He added that Cameron would “do everything to protect the interests of the Falklands Islanders.”
Earlier, a spokesman for the Falklands Islands government said:
“We are not a colony - our relationship with the United Kingdom is by choice.
“Unlike the government of Argentina, the United Kingdom respects the right of our people to determine our own affairs, a right that is enshrined in the UN Charter and which is ignored by Argentina.”
A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office in London said there could be no negotiations on the sovereignty of the Falklands “unless and until such time as the islanders so wish.”
“They remain free to choose their own futures, both politically and economically, and have a right to self-determination as enshrined in the UN Charter,” she added.
“This is a fundamental human right for all peoples. There are three parties to this debate, not just two as Argentina likes to pretend. The islanders can't just be written out of history,” said the Foreign Office.
In her open letter to Cameron, published as an advert in the Guardian and the Independent newspapers, Fernandez de Kirchner calls for the islands - known as the Malvinas in Argentina - to come under the sovereignty of her country.
Argentina claims that it inherited ownership of the islands from Spain, and that Britain occupied the islands by force on January 3, 1833.
“Argentina was forcibly stripped of the Malvinas Islands, which are situated 14,000 kilometres away from London,” she said.
“The Argentines on the Islands were expelled by the Royal Navy and the United Kingdom subsequently began a population implantation process similar to that applied to other territories under colonial rule,” said the letter.
The events of 1833 are, however, portrayed differently on the Foreign Office website. It says that an interim governor appointed by ministers in Buenos Aires was murdered by his own men and a British warship subsequently “told” his 24-man garrison to leave the islands.
British administration, which dated back to 1765, was then resumed, according to the Foreign Office.
Its website also refers to the 1965 UN resolution which, it says, “invited the British and Argentine governments to begin negotiations 'with a view to finding a peaceful solution to the problem, bearing in mind the provisions and objectives of the UN Charter and... the interests of the population of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)'.”
Argentina has also recently lodged a diplomatic protest against a British government decision to name part of Antarctica as Queen Elizabeth Land -to mark the 60-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
The area, which makes up around a third of the British Antarctic Territory, is also claimed by the South American country.
Britain and Argentina went to war over the Falklands in 1982. The conflict claimed the lives of 655 Argentinian soldiers and 255 British military personnel.
Oil has recently been discovered around the islands, inhabited by just 3 000 people. Argentina claims that the planned referendum is illegitimate as it sees the islanders as occupiers, rather than residents. - Sapa-dpa