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Argentina Seeks Papal Intervention in Falklands Dispute With U.K

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner today asked her countryman Pope Francis to help persuade the U.K. to open talks on her country’s sovereignty claim over the Falkland Islands, known in Latin America as Las Malvinas.

“We discussed what is a very sensitive issue for us, the question of Malvinas,” Fernandez, 60, told reporters after having lunch with the Pope at the Vatican. “I asked him to intercede in opening a dialogue between the U.K. and Argentina.”

The two countries went to war in 1982 after Argentina, then run by a military dictatorship, invaded the British territory in the South Atlantic. Tensions heightened last year, when Argentina protested the U.K.’s deployment of a modern warship in the area. Earlier this month, Falkland islanders voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to maintain the archipelago’s status as a British territory.

During today’s meeting, Fernandez gave the pope a kit for drinking mate, a typical tea sipped from a gourd.

Fernandez, who traveled to Rome to attend tomorrow’s papal inauguration, was shown laughing during the meeting, according to images broadcast on Argentine television. After his appointment last week, Fernandez congratulated the 76-year-old former Archbishop of Buenos Aires and called on him to deepen dialogue between wealthy nations and developing countries.

As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio clashed several times with Fernandez and her late husband and predecessor Nestor Kirchner, opposing a same-sex marriage bill and criticizing the government for failing to reduce the gap between rich and poor. Bergoglio is the first non-European pope in at least 1,200 years and the first Jesuit to lead the Roman Catholic Church.

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