David Cameron confronts Fernandez over Falkland Islands

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Media captionDavid Cameron: "If she respects democracy she will await the outcome of the referendum"

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has confronted the Argentine president over her country's continued claim to the Falklands Islands.

He spoke to President Cristina Fernandez before the first session of the G20 summit, No 10 said.

The prime minister told Ms Fernandez she should "respect the views" of islanders who are taking part in a referendum on the issue of control.

Ms Fernandez called on him to respect the UN, her foreign minister said.

The islands are marking 30 years since the end of the war with Argentina.

Both leaders are at the G20 summit taking place in Los Cabos, Mexico, though there are no formal talks between the two countries on the agenda.

Downing Street confirmed the two leaders met "in the margins" before the opening session got under way.

'No negotiation'

Mr Cameron approached Ms Fernandez, and told her: "I am not proposing a full discussion now on the Falklands but I hope you have noted that they are holding a referendum and you should respect their views.

"We should believe in self determination and act as democrats here in the G20."

Ms Fernandez then appeared to show Mr Cameron a letter which BBC political editor Nick Robinson said outlined UN Resolution 40/21 of November 1985, which requests both governments to negotiate a "peaceful" resolution to the Falklands dispute. At that point, Mr Cameron walked away.

The prime minister later told reporters he made his point "with vigour".

But Argentina's foreign minister, Hector Timmerman, said: "The president had the UN resolutions and she said to Cameron: 'Let's respect the United Nations'."

"The prime minister refused to accept the documents, turned his back and walked away without a farewell," he added.

"After years of acting as a colonial power they have forgotten that they are responsible for the existence of colonialism, and that it is countries like Argentina that defeated most of the colonial projects in the world," said Mr Timmerman.

A Downing Street official later said Ms Fernandez did not try to hand the document to Mr Cameron.

"We don't need an envelope from Fernandez to know what the UN resolutions say.... All the UN resolutions do refer to the UN charter, which enshrines the principle of self-determination and that is what we are asking the Argentines to respect," the official said.

Last week, the Falklands marked 30 years since the end of the war with Argentina with a service at Liberation Monument.

It followed a service at Port Stanley's cathedral to remember the UK's liberation of the UK territory from Argentine occupation on 14 June 1982.

Buenos Aires has sought to use the 30th anniversary of the war to revive its claim on the islands it calls the Malvinas.

Last Thursday at the UN, Argentina's president questioned the UK's sovereignty over the Falklands, but Mr Cameron said there would be "no negotiation" on the issue.

Argentina says it inherited ownership of the islands - which it calls Las Malvinas - from Spain, arguing that British colonists occupied the islands by force in 1833 and expelled settlers - thus violating Argentina's territorial integrity.

It also bases its claim on the islands' proximity to the South American mainland.

'Important conversation'

Speaking at a press conference after the incident on Tuesday, Mr Cameron denied it had been a stunt to please UK voters.

"I just think it was an important conversation to have. This referendum is something of a game-changer for the issue and I think it's good it's coming about," he said.

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Media captionThe BBC's Caroline Wyatt on events to mark the end of the war in the Falklands

"We should be clear that because there's a referendum there's an opportunity for those countries in the world who have not looked at this issue for a while and have perhaps accepted some of the propaganda put around by Argentina or their supporters to look again at this issue and recognise that the people of these islands should be able to determine their own future.

"It's an important point to make to the Argentine president and an important point to make more widely and that's exactly why I did what I did."

Earlier in a speech to a business audience, the prime minister singled out Argentina for criticism for protectionist trade measures which he identified as one of the five key threats to the world economy.

According to Argentine newspaper, La Nacion, Mr Timernman responded by saying England had more fiscal havens than the whole G20 - which allowed the departure of money from Europe.