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13/02/2010 | Argentina blocks supply ship to Falklands

Telegraph Staff

Argentina has escalated its dispute with Britain over oil and gas exploration in the South Atlantic, blocking a ship from leaving with equipment it said would have been used to support drilling around the Falkland Islands.

 

Jorge Taiana, the foreign minister, met to press the issue with the governor of Tierra del Fuego province, which, on every schoolchild's map in the country, includes the islands the Argentines call Las Malvinas.

"Great Britain is violating Argentine sovereignty," Gov. Fabiana Rios declared after the meeting.

The Foreign Ministry said that port officials prevented the vessel from leaving because of evidence that the cargo of Argentine-made seamless tubes would be used for drilling activity "illegitimately promoted" by Britain.

The ministry said the boat had visited Port Stanley, the islands' capital, in January without permission. By law, any company involved in the oil business must obtain government permission before engaging in activity in Argentina's continental shelf - including the disputed islands.

Techint, the world's biggest producer of seamless steel tubing for the oil industry, denied that the tubes were destined for the Falklands. It said they were headed to destinations in the Mediterranean and companies that have no operations in the disputed area.

The British Foreign Office declined to comment.

Last week Argentina formally objected to the start of oil and gas exploration in the islands, which the government considers to be Argentine despite losing a war over them with Britain.

Argentina took the South Atlantic islands by force in April 1982, and 649 of its soldiers and 258 British soldiers were killed before Argentina surrendered two months later.

The latest battles are mostly waged by diplomats - both countries have filed claims with international organisations over rights to the seabed surrounding the islands.

Meanwhile, British companies are moving ahead with exploration.

Desire Petroleum Plc has licensed six areas around the islands where it says 3.5 billion barrels of oil and 9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas can be recovered from relatively shallow deposits. The company is bringing in the Ocean Guardian, a $35 million offshore oil rig, that it expects to begin drilling in earnest by month's end.

Telegraph (Reino Unido)

 


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