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Bloc backs Argentina over Falklands

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and other leaders in the left-leaning ALBA bloc have backed Argentina in its long-running dispute with Britain over the Falkland Islands.

Argentine foreign minister Hector Timerman thanked Mr Chavez and other presidents for their support at the meeting in Caracas.

"The issue of the Malvinas Islands is an issue that concerns us, especially with the strong language that has emerged from the British government, accusing Argentina of being colonialist," Chavez said, calling it "the world in reverse".

The dispute heated up recently when Prince William, a Royal Air Force helicopter pilot, was assigned to the islands on an upcoming military tour along with a warship in the run-up to the 30th anniversary of Argentina's April 1982 invasion, which sparked a 10-week war.

Argentina, which claims Britain stole the archipelago from it 180 years ago, calls them the Malvinas Islands and has protested the British deployment.

The eight member countries of the Bolivarian Alliance bloc, or ALBA, approved an agreement barring any boats flying Falkland Islands flags from docking in their ports.

"I'm speaking only for Venezuela, but if it occurs to the British empire to attack Argentina, Argentina won't be alone this time," Mr Chavez said.

Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa suggested the countries take stronger measures. "We have to talk about sanctions," Mr Correa said.

Argentina hopes diplomatic and economic measures will pressure Britain to comply with United Nations resolutions encouraging both countries to negotiate the islands' sovereignty. British leaders have refused to do that.

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