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Vehicles decorated with Union Jack and Falkland Islands flags take part in what was called a "Victory" rally in Stanley, March 12, 2013. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci


By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Argentina's foreign minister used an appearance at the United Nations on Thursday to issue a fresh appeal to Britain to resume negotiations on the status of the disputed Falkland Islands, an idea that London quickly rebuffed.

"This protracted sovereignty dispute must be solved through negotiations," the Argentine foreign minister, Susana Malcorra, told the U.N. Special Committee on Decolonization.

"I would like to reiterate ... the full willingness of Argentine government to resume negotiations with the United Kingdom in order to find a peaceful and definite solution to the sovereignty dispute," she added.

The Falklands are part of Britain's self-governing overseas territories.

Argentine forces seized the islands in 1982, and Britain sent a task force to retake them in a brief war in which more than 600 Argentine and 255 British servicemen were killed and which led to the collapse of Argentina's military dictatorship.

Malcorra said Argentina supported the concept of self-determination, but cautioned that it was "not absolute" and does not apply to the 3,000 inhabitants of the islands, known in Spanish as Las Malvinas. She said Argentina will never cease trying to recover the islands.

A spokesman for Britain's U.N. mission said there could be no dialogue without the permission of the Falklanders.

"The 2013 referendum - in which 99.8 percent of those who voted wanted to maintain their current status - sent a clear message that the people of the islands do not want dialogue on sovereignty," he said. "Argentina should respect those wishes."

Mike Summers, a long-serving member of the islands' Legislative Assembly, concurred.

"Falkland Islanders are comfortable with the constitutional relationship we have with the United Kingdom," he told the committee. "We have a right to move away from it if we so wished, but there is no current wish to do so."

Malcorra, a candidate to replace U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon when he leaves office on Dec. 31, softened the tone of Argentina's presentation compared with previous years when former President Cristina Fernandez herself gave fiery speeches to the committee.

For years Fernandez waged a diplomatic offensive to assert Argentina's claims to the islands, which are part of Britain's self-governing overseas territories.

But Malcorra made clear her government's policy on the islands was unchanged.

The islands, which have seen exploration by oil and gas firms nearby, are 300 miles off the Argentine coast and 8,000 miles from Britain.

The committee adopted a non-binding resolution calling on Argentina and Britain to enter into negotiations.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Leslie Adler)


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