(AFP) – Feb 22, 2010
BUENOS AIRES — Argentina was anticipating Monday to broaden regional support in its escalating row with Britain over the disputed Falkland Islands after winning immediate backing from Venezuela and Nicaragua.
After losing a short but bloody war over the south Atlantic islands with Britain in 1982, Argentina is furious that the British are about to begin oil drilling operations in the potentially rich seabed around the archipelago.
Argentina escalated the row last week by ordering all ships heading to the Falklands through its waters to first seek permission from Buenos Aires before appealing to other regional powers to follow suit.
On Sunday Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana took the Argentine case to the Rio Group of Latin American and Caribbean nations, gathering for a two-day meeting in Cancun.
Taiana hopes the group will issue a statement condemning British drilling operations around the islands, which it calls Islas Malvinas.
"Argentina has made significant diplomatic advances among the 33 foreign ministers of Latin America and the Caribbean that strengthen our country" in the dispute, Taiana said in a statement Sunday.
In Caracas Chavez, speaking on his radio and television show "Alo Presidente", called on Queen Elizabeth II to hand over the Falklands to Argentina.
"Look, England, how long are you going to be in Las Malvinas? Queen of England, I'm talking to you... The time for empires are over, haven't you noticed? Return the Malvinas to the Argentine people.
"The English are still threatening Argentina. Things have changed," Chavez continued, still addressing Queen Elizabeth II. "We are no longer in 1982. If conflict breaks out, be sure Argentina will not be alone like it was back then."
British control of the archipelago is "anti-historic and irrational," said Chavez, asking "why the English speak of democracy but still have a queen?"
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega predicted Sunday the Rio Group would support Argentina's claim on the Falklands.
"We will back a resolution that would demand the England return the Malvinas to its rightful owner, that it return the islands to Argentina," the Nicaraguan leader said.
Argentina has ramped up the pressure on Britain over the Falkland Islands in recent weeks, warning it will take unspecified measures to stop British oil exploration even if it is not prepared to go to war again over the islands.
A tug boat hauling a Scottish exploration rig has arrived in the contested waters and is expected to start oil prospecting any day.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Friday he was "confident" diplomacy could resolve the standoff, while islanders voiced disappointment at tensions over the drilling.
Argentina says Britain, a UN Security Council member, is skirting UN resolutions calling for dialogue on the dispute. It says UN resolutions recognize the territorial dispute and urge dialogue to settle it.
Taiana will meet UN chief Ban-Ki Moon to encourage talks, Argentina's UN envoy Jorge Arguello has said.
Britain in January rejected Argentina's latest claim to the islands, which it has held and occupied since 1833.
The two countries' rival claims of ownership over the Falklands exploded into war in 1982 after Argentine military rulers seized the islands, only to be defeated and expelled by a British naval force.
The conflict lasted 74 days and cost the lives of 649 Argentine soldiers and 255 from Britain.
The Falkland Islands lie 450 kilometers (280 miles) off Argentina's southern coast.
Argentina says its territorial waters extend well beyond the archipelago, to the edge of the underwater continental shelf more than 2,000 kilometers away.
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