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Argentina to Britain: Give up Falklands

LONDON -- Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner called on Britain yesterday to relinquish control of the Falkland Islands, accusing London of an act of "blatant colonialism" in claiming the wind-swept archipelago.

Kirchner's open letter appeared in the newspaper The Guardian, urging Prime Minister David Cameron to honor UN resolutions that she says back her case for the return of the islands. She has made several similar demands in the past for the islands, which Argentina calls the Malvinas.

"180 years ago on the same date, January 3rd, in a blatant exercise of 19th-century colonialism, Argentina was forcibly stripped of the Malvinas Islands, which are situated 14,000 kilometers [8,700 miles] away from London," she says in the letter, copied to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

"The secretary-general's offer of good offices . . . remains to resolve this dispute if both parties are willing to engage," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

Cameron rebuffed the demand that the islands be handed over. "The future of the Falkland Islands should be determined by the Falkland Islanders themselves, the people who live there," he said.

Argentina joined the Security Council on Jan. 1 for a two-year term and will serve alongside Britain, a permanent member with veto power.

Britain asserted control of the south Atlantic islands by placing a naval garrison there in 1833. Britain and Argentina fought a brief war in 1982 after Argentina invaded the islands. More than 900 people died, most of them Argentines.

Cameron said Kirchner should pay heed to the result of a referendum to be held on the islands this year, noting that whenever the islanders "have been asked their opinion, they say they want to maintain their current status with the United Kingdom."

The Falklands government attacked Kirchner's letter as "historically inaccurate," saying its relationship with the U.K. is "by choice" and based on shared ideals of "democracy, freedom and self-reliance." The islands have a right, enshrined in the UN charter, to determine their own future, the government said.

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