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UK won’t discuss Falklands sovereignty with Argentina

  Sovereignty over the Falklands Islands will not be up for discussion when British Prime Minister Gordon Brown holds talks with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, Brown said on Friday.

Brown and Fernandez are scheduled to meet on Saturday morning on the sidelines of a meeting of centre-left leaders in the Chilean coastal resort of Vina del Mar.

Britain seized back the islands, known as the Malvinas in Spanish, in a 1982 war after they were occupied by Argentine forces. Some 649 Argentines and 255 British troops died.

Tackling the global financial crisis is expected to dominate the meeting which comes less than a week before the G20 summit of leading industrial and developing countries that both leaders will attend in London on April 2.

Brown made clear before the meeting that “on sovereignty of the Falklands, there is nothing to discuss from our side.” “The essential principle has always been that the islanders should determine the issue of sovereignty for themselves,” he said in a statement.

“Our first priority will always be the needs and the wishes of the islanders. They are a proud and strong community and they have my total support and respect,” he said.

He said there were “ongoing discussions about flights to and from the mainland but as on every other issue it is the needs and wishes of the islanders that are our first priority.”

Argentina wants direct flights to the islands so that relatives can visit the graves of the war dead. The Falkland islanders, who number around 2,900, want more flights to South America for business purposes, a British official said.

He said no breakthrough on these issues was expected at Saturday’s meeting.

Argentina’s Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana told reporters in Vina del Mar there would be an “open agenda” at the meeting between Fernandez and Brown.

Taiana said that the issue of sovereignty over the Falklands was a “permanent” Argentine foreign policy issue.

Argentina’s ill-fated Falklands campaign is widely seen as a mistake by the discredited military dictatorship ruling at the time. However, Argentina’s government has said it will continue to seek sovereignty over the islands. (Reuters)