Falklands row grows over drilling

Falklands row grows over drilling

Britain on March 15 accused Argentina of illegally intimidating Falkland Islands residents after its foreign minister vowed legal action against oil companies operating around the territory.

Thirty years after it repelled an Argentine invasion of the Falklands, Britain has vowed to defend the archipelago, saying it will negotiate sovereignty or oil rights only if the 3,000 islanders want that. Argentina says Britain is flouting U.N. resolutions that call for talks and prohibit any unilateral action as long as the sovereignty dispute persists.

Argentinean Foreign Minister Hector Timerman warned “we will take the required legal, administrative, civil and criminal actions against oil companies currently involved in drilling,” speaking in a Buenos Aires press conference March 15. Britain’s Foreign Office responded by calling the threats “illegal, unbecoming and wholly counter-productive.” The ministry stressed that oil exploration around the disputed islands was a legitimate commercial venture, and that islanders were entitled to exploit any natural resources.

The announcement escalated rising tensions over the South Atlantic islands claimed by Argentina since 1833, but held by Britain. Timerman noted that in the past Buenos Aires had already “notified these firms that they were acting illegally.” “We will also send warnings to companies which might be interested in these activities, serving them notice of the possible administrative, civil and criminal sanctions they might face,” he added.

Compiled from AFP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.