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Wednesday 23.08.2017 | Name days: Valgudis, Ralfs, Vitālijs

Falkland Islanders vote to keep British rule

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Residents of the Falkland Islands voted almost unanimously to stay under British rule in a referendum aimed at winning global sympathy as Argentina intensifies its sovereignty claim.

The official count on Monday showed 99.8 percent of islanders voted in favor of remaining a British Overseas Territory in the two-day poll, which was rejected by Argentina as a meaningless publicity stunt. There only three “no” votes out of about 1,500 cast, Reuters reported.

Turnout was 92 percent among the 1,649 Falklands-born and long-term residents registered to vote.

However, officials in Buenos Aires questioned the referendum’s legitimacy. They say the sovereignty dispute must be resolved between Britain and Argentina and cite U.N. resolutions calling on London to sit down for talks.

“This (referendum) is a ploy that has no legal value,” said Alicia Castro, Argentina’s ambassador to London.

“Negotiations are in the islanders’ best interest. We don’t want to deny them their identity. They’re British, we respect their identity and their way of life and that they want to continue to be British. But the territory they occupy is not British,” she told an Argentine radio station.

Argentina has claimed the islands since 1833, saying it inherited them from the Spanish on independence and that Britain expelled an Argentine population.

The 1982 war, which killed about 650 Argentines and 255 Britons and ended when Argentina surrendered, is widely remembered in Argentina as a humiliating mistake by the discredited and brutal dictatorship in power at the time.

Argentina’s fiery left-leaning president, Cristina Fernandez, has piled pressure on Britain to negotiate the sovereignty of the islands, something London refuses to do unless the islanders request talks.

Falkland local politicians hope the resounding “yes” vote will help them lobby support abroad, for example in the United States, which has a neutral position on the sovereignty issue.

The mood was festive as islanders lined up in the cold to vote in the low-key island capital of Stanley, some wearing novelty outfits made from the red, white and blue British Union Jack flag.

“We are British and that’s the way we want to stay,” said Barry Nielsen, who wore a Union Jack hat to cast his ballot at the town hall polling station in Stanley, where most of the roughly 2,500 islanders live.

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