Falkland Islanders invited to talk with Argentinian minister

Britain has invited residents of the Falkland Islands to meet the Argentinian foreign minister when he visits London next week, the Foreign Office said on Thursday.

Falkland Islanders said in a statement they would tell Hector Timerman that they want to be "left in peace" by Argentina, which claims the British-held archipelago is occupied Argentinian territory.

Britain has held the islands in the South Atlantic since 1833, but Argentinian 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.

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

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

A Foreign Office spokesman said it was hoped Timerman, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and the representatives from the Legislative Assembly of the Falklands would be able to meet together, although he did not give a precise date.

"We are aware that Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman is due in the UK next week, and have invited him to come to the Foreign Office to meet the Foreign Secretary and representatives of the UK Government and the Falkland Islands Government," the spokesman said.

The Falklands' Assembly stressed that the representatives travelling 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.