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British oil rig begins drilling near the Falkland Islands

February 22, 2010 |  5:41 pm

A British oil rig began drilling near the Falkland Islands in the south Atlantic on Monday, an area Argentina considers its territorial waters.

Argentina claims sovereignty over the islands, as well as the surrounding waters where Britain's Desire Petroleum is digging for oil. The Latin nation briefly occupied the Falkland Islands, a British colony it calls Las Malvinas, during the 1982 war with Britain.

The issue has come up at the Rio Group summit underway in Cancun, Mexico, where Argentina's president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, is rallying diplomatic support among regional allies. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega have criticized Britain for the move, with the fiery Chavez saying Friday: "Give the Malvinas back to the Argentine people."

So far, Britain is standing its ground. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Friday in London that he was "confident" diplomacy with Argentina would resolve the conflict. Argentina has previously decreed ships traveling through its waters near the Falkland Islands would require an Argentine permit.

The BBC has a short feature on how the row is playing out among the islanders.

"Oil is oil at the end of the day," says one. "Governments always fight about oil -- no matter where it is in the world."

 -- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City