Argentina threatens legal action over Falklands oil

Port Stanley, Falkland Islands capital This April marks the 30th anniversary of the start of the Falklands War

Argentina says it will take legal action against companies involved in oil exploration in the Falkland Islands, which it claims.

Foreign minister Hector Timmerman said oil development in Falklands waters was "illegal".

He warned that any companies providing support to British prospectors could also face sanctions.

In response, the UK government said it supported the right of the islanders to develop their oil resources.

The announcement of legal action is the latest in a series of measures Argentina has taken in recent months to assert its claim to sovereignty over the Falklands, which it calls the Malvinas.

Mr Timmerman said companies involved in oil exploration in Falklands waters were "violating UN resolutions" calling for talks on sovereignty.

"The oil and gas of the South Atlantic are property of the Argentine people," he said.

He warned that legal action would target oil companies as well as firms providing them with financial and logistic support.

'Intimidation'

The UK Foreign Office said the right to develop the hydrocarbon sector was an "integral part" of the Falkland islanders' right to self-determination.

"These latest attempts to damage the economic livelihoods of the Falkland Islands people regrettably reflect a pattern of behaviour by the Argentine government," the Foreign Office said.

"From harassing Falklands shipping to threatening the islanders' air links with Chile, Argentina's efforts to intimidate the Falklands are illegal, unbecoming and wholly counter-productive," it added

Several British companies are searching for oil and gas in Falklands waters.

One of them - Rockhopper - says it has found significant reserves and is seeking investment partners to begin production.

The search for oil has inflamed tension over the disputed islands ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War.

On 2 April 1982 Argentina invaded the Falklands, only to be defeated by a British task force sent to recover them.

The UK says there will be no negotiations on sovereignty as long as the Falkland islanders wish to remain British.

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