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Falklands spat over drilling plans

Britain today dismissed a reported threat from Argentina to prosecute oil firms drilling near the Falklands.

Daniel Filmus, Buenos Aires' minister for the Malvinas, as it refers to the Falklands, was quoted as saying: "The new exploration efforts to try to find hydrocarbons in the area carry a huge environmental risk.

"We want the owners of the companies to be tried according to Argentine laws and international statutes."

The comments came after three British firms - Premier Oil, Rockhopper Exploration and Falkland Oil & Gas - announced on Thursday that they had found oil and gas in a remote field north of the islands, which are claimed by Argentina.

A Foreign Office spokesman said today: "We have always been very clear that this is an unlawful assertion of jurisdiction over the Falklands Islands' continental shelf, which we reject, and we will raise it will the appropriate authorities.

"We are satisfied that the Islands have the right to develop their hydrocarbons sector as a legitimate commercial venture with international oil and gas companies, and will continue to support them as they move forward. Argentine domestic law does not apply to the Falkland Islands."

There was no comment today from any of the companies.

The latest diplomatic clash comes against a background of renewed fears of a fresh Argentinian invasion of the islands, 33 years after the Falklands War.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced recently that Britain was to deploy two RAF Chinook transport helicopters to help bolster the defence of the islands, helping its garrison to mo unt a swift and decisive response to any incidents.

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