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Falkland Islands vote in referendum with eye on world (VIDEO)

The Falkland Islands' residents are heading to the polls to vote on whether they will remain a British overseas territory.

Falkland islands referendum 12 06 2012Enlarge
(MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images)

Falkland Islanders are holding a referendum on Sunday and Monday to send a message to the world that they want to stay British, in defiance of increasingly bellicose claims to the territory by Argentina.

Buenos Aires has already dismissed the vote as meaningless, saying it will not affect its dispute with Britain over the South Atlantic islands which sparked a brief but bloody war in 1982.

Britain has held the barren islands since 1833 but Buenos Aires claims what it calls "Las Malvinas" are occupied Argentinian territory.

The South American nation has also said it will only hold negotiations over the territories with the UK Government and not with those who it regards as "colonists," the Telegraph reported

In a move instigated by residents themselves, the Islands' 1,672 eligible voters are being asked whether they want the Falklands to remain an internally self-governing British overseas territory.

"I would hope that whilst the government of Argentina may not listen to us, I hope the people... will listen to us, because I think there are many people within Argentina who are not in tune with their government," said Dick Sawle, a member of the island's legislative assembly who pushed for the vote, according to BBC News

More from GlobalPost: People, politics or oil: Who will win the Falklands?

Homes and shops across the archipelago are festooned with posters urging people to vote "yes" as well as the British Union Jack and the deep blue Falklands flag, which has the Union Jack in one corner and a crest with a sheep in the middle.

The referendum is a logistical challenge across an inhospitable territory of 4,700 square miles, and mobile ballot boxes are being sent out by plane and by Land Rover to ensure everyone will have a chance to vote.

Diplomatic tensions have risen in recent years, fuelled by the discovery of oil near the Falklands, and Argentine President Cristina Kirchner has ramped up her demands for the island's return.

The ambassador to Britain, Alicia Castro, this weekend branded the referendum "utterly meaningless" from the perspective of international law.

"Its predictable outcome neither ends the dispute nor affects Argentina's unquestionable rights," she told Infobae news from London.

London says it will not discuss sovereignty issues with Buenos Aires unless the islanders expressly wish it.

A YouGov opinion poll for Sky News published on Saturday found that 24 percent of Argentinians surveyed said the Falklands was the most important foreign policy issue, against just one percent of Britons.

On April 2, 1982, Argentina's then-ruling junta invaded the Falklands, sparking a 74-day war with Britain which cost the lives of 649 Argentine and 255 British troops.

If the invasion hardened the minds of the staunchly pro-British islanders, Kirchner's tub-thumping has done likewise for a whole new generation.

Several international observers, many of them from Latin America, are monitoring the polls, which are open on Sunday and Monday. The results are due overnight on Monday. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130310/falkland-islands-vote-referendum-britain-argentina