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Argentina rejects British invitation to meet Falklanders

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Argentina on Thursday rejected a British invitation to meet Falkland Islands government officials during Foreign Minister Hector Timerman's planned visit to London next week.

"The international community does not recognize a third party in this dispute," Timerman said, insisting the United Nations regards the dispute over the islands as a bilateral issue between London and Buenos Aires.

The British Foreign Office had said earlier that it hoped Timerman, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and representatives from the Legislative Assembly of the Falklands would be able to meet.

Falkland Islanders said in a statement that they would tell Timerman that they want to be "left in peace" by Argentina, which calls the archipelago Las Malvinas and claims it is occupied Argentinian territory.

Timerman said Hague's invitation meant he was refusing to hold a bilateral meeting, and warned of consequences.

"I found unfortunate your letter from yesterday in which you stated that we cannot meet without discussing the Falkland settlers," Timerman said.

"It's a shame that you would object to holding a bilateral meeting.

"This decision will surely reduce Argentine's interest in working with the UK in the G20 and the UN Security Council, as well as on nuclear proliferation issues, human trafficking, money laundering linked to drug crimes, investment, trade, human rights and many others."

Timerman told Hague: "It is not necessary that you keep trying to put together meetings during my visit to London. Leave the job to our efficient embassy."

Instead, Timerman invited Hague to visit Argentina to "appreciate that our country is a true democracy where my fellow foreign ministers can meet freely with whomever they want without me having to push them or determine which meetings they should attend."

Britain has held the islands in the South Atlantic since 1833, but Argentine forces invaded in 1982, prompting then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher to send a naval task force to reclaim control in a brief but bloody war.

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner has in recent years strongly asserted her demands for the Falklands to come under Argentine sovereignty despite the islanders' opposition.

Earlier this month, Kirchner had an advert published in British newspapers claiming Argentina had been stripped of the islands in "a blatant exercise of 19th century colonialism."

The Falklands' Assembly stressed that the representatives traveling to London, Dick Sawle and Jan Cheek, would not be "negotiating any deal" with Argentina.

"Rather we are anticipating a full and frank exchange of views," the Assembly said.

"Indeed we look forward to giving Mr Timerman some very direct messages on the unacceptability of Argentina's actions against the Falkland Islands in recent years.

"We demand that our rights be respected, and that we be left in peace to choose our own future and to develop our country for our children and generations to come.

"It is only right that he should hear this directly from us, as well as from Mr Hague."

Falkland Islanders will be asked specifically whether they want the archipelago to retain its status as a British overseas territory in a referendum on March 10 and 11.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130131/argentina-rejects-british-invitation-meet-falklanders