Argentina asks U.S. for help to end Falklands spat
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Argentina asked for U.S. help Monday in resolving a brewing dispute with Britain over the Southern Atlantic islands that were the subject of a brief war more than 25 years ago and where Britain has begun drilling for oil.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez said she made the request during an unexpectedly lengthy meeting with visiting Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Clinton said the United States will encourage the two countries to talk. Britain has opposed outside mediation.
"What we have requested is mediation as a friendly country of both Argentina and the United Kingdom," Fernandez said. She said Argentina wants those talks to take place within a framework established by the United Nations shortly after the Falklands Islands war of 1982.
"That's it. The only thing we have asked for is just to have them sit down at the table. I don't think that's too much," Fernandez told reporters.
Clinton agreed on the need for talks but did not spell out what the U.S. role might be. Any direct intervention risks irritating Britain, a close ally.
"We would like to see Argentina and the U.K. sit down and resolve the issues between them in a peaceful and productive way," Clinton said.
She said the U.S. couldn't force them to the table but would be calling publicly for the two sides to talk.
The islands are claimed by Argentina, which refers to them as Las Malvinas. U.S. officials have insisted Washington is neutral on the question of sovereignty but does recognize the current British administration of the islands.
Earlier Monday, Clinton offered to help Argentina and Britain resolve the dispute and said the United States is willing to be a go-between, though she did not elaborate.
She said the two countries should agree themselves over the sovereignty of the British-administered islands.
"We are not interested in, and have no real role in, determining what they decide between the two of them," Clinton said. But she told reporters en route to the Argentine capital, "What we want to do is facilitate them talking to each other."
Argentina last week asked the head of the United Nations to help resolve the long-running dispute. The U.N. General Assembly had called for Argentina and Britain to negotiate sovereignty over the islands following the war, which Britain won.
Britain has ruled out any concessions involving the islands that its people have occupied since the early 1800s.
Argentina says the islands' residents, who strongly favor retaining ties to Britain, do not have the unilateral right to decide what they want the islands to be.
Argentina was a last-minute addition to Clinton's itinerary, which includes Uruguay, quake-devastated Chile, Brazil, Costa Rica and Guatemala. Her schedule was scrambled by the earthquake.
Clinton had planned to see Fernandez in Montevideo, and then only briefly, where they both attended the inauguration of new Uruguayan President Jose Mujica. There had been grumbling in Argentina that Clinton's original decision to skip Buenos Aires was a snub.