Argentina dismisses Falklands referendum

Argentina on Monday dismissed a referendum by Falkland Islanders on the status of the disputed South Atlantic archipelago as a "maneuver with no legal value."

"They are British. We respect their way of life, their identity. We respect that they want to continue being British, but the territory they inhabit is not British," said Argentina's ambassador to Britain, Alicia Castro.

Her comments to La Red radio in Buenos Aires came as the islanders cast ballots on whether they want the Falkland Islands, known as the Malvinas in Spanish, to remain an internally self-governed British overseas territory.

An overwhelming 'yes" vote was expected, but Argentine officials shrugged it off as irrelevant to its simmering dispute with Britain over the remote, sparsely populated island chain.

"It's a maneuver with no legal value, which has neither been convened nor supervised by the United Nations," Castro said.

Ruling party senator Anibal Fernandez, a former chief of staff of President Cristina Kirchner, called it a "publicity stunt" by British Prime Minister David Cameron "with zero value."

"There will never be a right to self-determination because its population was implanted" by Britain after it occupied the islands in 1833, he said.

The two countries fought a brief but bloody war over the islands in 1982 after an Argentine invasion.

The Argentine forces were defeated after an amphibious assault by a British naval task force, but the conflict came at a cost of 649 Argentine and 255 British dead.

Tensions have flared anew in recent years as Britain opened the islands' waters to oil exploration.