Argentina's Fernandez raises Falklands with Pope Francis

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Pope Francis, 18 March 2013 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption President Fernandez is the first head of state to be received by the new Pope

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner says she has asked for the Pope's intervention in the Falklands dispute between her country and the UK.

Visiting the Vatican, Ms Fernandez said she had asked the Pope to promote dialogue between the two sides.

Argentine Pope Francis was elected last week and will be formally installed as pontiff at a Mass on Tuesday.

In the past he has said the Falkland Islands, a UK overseas territory, belong to Argentina.

Before Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected, the 76-year-old was Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Relations between him, Ms Fernandez, and her late husband and predecessor as president, Nestor Kirchner, were tense.

"I asked for his intervention to avoid problems that could emerge from the militarization of Great Britain in the south Atlantic," Ms Fernandez told reporters after a 15-20 minute meeting and lunch with the Pope.

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Media captionPresident Kirchner says she wants dialogue between Argentina and the UK

"We want a dialogue and that's why we asked the pope to intervene so that the dialogue is successful."

The BBC's Alan Johnston reports from Rome that there has been no word yet as to how the Pope responded to the appeal.

In a referendum held a week ago, people in the Falkland Islands voted overwhelmingly in favour of remaining a UK overseas territory.

At a Mass last year, he told Argentine veterans of the Falklands War: "We come to pray for all who have fallen, sons of the Homeland who went out to defend their mother, the Homeland, and to reclaim what is theirs."

British Prime Minister David Cameron said last week that he "respectfully" disagreed with the view expressed in the past by Pope Francis that the Falkland Islands had been "usurped" by the UK.

Ms Fernandez is the first head of state the new Pope has met. She presented him with a mate gourd and straw for drinking traditional Argentine tea.

The two also kissed, and Ms Fernandez remarked afterwards: "Never in my life has a pope kissed me!''

She gave a muted welcome to the Pope's election. The two have clashed in the past, especially over social reforms promoted by her and her late husband in the face of Church opposition.

When the then-Cardinal Bergoglio argued that gay adoptions discriminated against children, Ms Fernandez said his tone harked back to "medieval times and the Inquisition".

Her husband Nestor Kirchner once referred to him as the "head of the opposition".

Last year, the cardinal said Argentina was being harmed by demagoguery, totalitarianism, corruption and efforts to secure unlimited power, the Associated Press reports.

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