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UK warns Argentina over latest Falklands spat

Argentina's charge d'affaires summoned over interior minister's call for end to imports from Britain to pressure London on Falklands

AP , Wednesday 29 Feb 2012
P&O Cruises' Adonia passenger ship docks a day after being denied mooring at Argentina's southernmost city of Ushuaia, in Punta Arenas port in southern Chile, February 28, (Photo: Reuters).
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Argentina's top diplomat in Britain was summoned to London's foreign ministry Wednesday to explain his country's decision to ask 20 leading companies to stop importing British products and supplies.

Argentina's Industry Minister Debora Giorgi told the companies Tuesday they should replace British imports with products from other nations, in a latest attempt to pressure London to negotiate over the disputed Falkland Islands.

Tensions are rising ahead of the anniversary of the brief 1982 war between Argentina and Britain over the islands, which begin 2 April, and saw more than 900 people die.

A Foreign Office spokesman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity in line with policy, said Argentina's charge d'affaires Osvaldo Marsico had been called to the ministry "this afternoon for an explanation."

Marsico is Argentina's chief diplomat in Britain, as the country has not had a full ambassador since 2008.

"The UK is the sixth largest investor in Argentina, and we import from Argentina significantly more than we export to them," the spokesman said. "So it is firmly not in Argentina's economic interest to put up these barriers to trade."

Officials also planned to discuss Argentina's decision on Monday to turn away two Carnival Corp. cruise ships from its southernmost city of Ushuaia, invoking a new law that bars vessels linked to Britain.

Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman Steve Field said it was "very sad that Argentina continues with their approach of confrontation, not cooperation."

Argentina has become increasingly assertive over its claims to the islands it calls the Malvinas, as well as the British-held South Georgia and South Sandwich islands. At stake are not only the islands, but rich fishing grounds and potential undersea gas and oil reserves in the surrounding seas.

Cameron insists London will not enter negotiations on the sovereignty of the islands. He has said the people of the Falklands must decide their own future and claims Argentina has taken a colonialist approach to the islands' residents.

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