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U.K. Disappointed After Argentina Rejects Falklands Talks

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Feb. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Britain’s government said it’s disappointed after Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman pulled out of a planned meeting to discuss the disputed Falkland Islands with Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Timerman said yesterday he wouldn’t attend the meeting in the U.K. because he was unwilling to hold talks involving representatives of the Falkland Islands government and wanted to talk to Hague alone, Argentine media reported.

Argentina claims sovereignty over the islands, an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean that it calls the Malvinas. Its forces invaded the territory in 1982 before U.K. troops retook it after a war that claimed the lives of 255 British military personnel, three islanders and 649 Argentinians.

“We are disappointed by the decision,” U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokeswoman, Vickie Sheriff, told reporters in London today. “We are not prepared to talk over the heads of the Falkland Islanders over matters that directly affect their status as a British overseas territory or their economy.”

The Falklands will hold a referendum on March 10-11 in which voters will be asked whether they want to retain their current political status. Tensions over the islands heightened last year, with Argentina protesting the U.K.’s deployment of a modern warship to the South Atlantic.

“The offer still stands,” Sheriff said. “If the Argentinians change their minds we’d be very happy to talk to them.”

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner published an open letter to Cameron last month saying he should abide by a 1960 United Nations resolution urging member states to “end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations.” She said the islands were “forcibly stripped” from Argentina 180 years ago.

To contact the reporters on this story: Eddie Buckle in London at ebuckle@bloomberg.net; Thomas Penny in London at tpenny@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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