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Argentine envoy hauled over U.K. trade row

  |   March 1, 2012 at 2:19 PM
BUENOS AIRES, March 1 (UPI) -- Argentina indicated Thursday that it's pleased that Britain wants the European Union to intervene in the Falklands sovereignty dispute.

The Argentine comments came after the country's senior London diplomat Osvaldo Marsico was hauled before the British Foreign Office to explain Industry Minister Debora Giorgi's calls to cut imports from Britain.

Exactly what Britain asked the EU to do remains unclear but Argentina is celebrating a mention of the EU in British Foreign Office comments as a breakthrough in its effort to internationalize the sovereignty claim.

Military-ruled Argentina invaded the Falklands, a British Overseas Territory, in 1982 but was repulsed by Britain in a 74-day conflict. The war cost the lives of 649 Argentine troops, 255 British troops and three Falkland Islanders.

Argentina under civilian rule revived the sovereignty issue. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has taken her claim to international organizations, arguing British rule over the South Atlantic islands is a vestige of colonialism.

The diplomatic escalation has coincided with United Kingdom-backed exploration for oil in the Falklands waters.

Argentina has sought its Latin American neighbors' support in the dispute, tried to blockade Falklands shipping and discourage air links with the territory. The reported trade boycott is the latest escalation.

Argentine media said industry and business leaders were contacted by the Industry Ministry, which asked them to stop buying British goods. Company chiefs were approached by Trade Ministry officials, including Giorgi herself in some cases, the reports said.

The ministry's contacts targeted traders importing from Britain and took exception to recent increases in the volumes of imports from Britain. The traders were told to look for alternatives to British suppliers, the reports said.

The traders were told by Trade Ministry officials in no uncertain terms the government looked to encouraging trade with foreign partners who respected Argentina's "territorial sovereignty," the reports said.

British officials said Argentine curbs on trade, if implemented, wouldn't be in the interest of Argentina.

"We made clear that such actions against legitimate commercial activity were a matter of concern not just for the U.K., but for the EU as a whole, and that we expect the EU to lodge similar concerns with Argentine authorities," a Foreign Office statement said after Marsico was summoned for an explanation.

The European Union has said it would seek diplomatic proceedings with Argentina to try and solve the trade conflict.

An Argentine Foreign Affairs Ministry statement said "Argentina is pleased to see that the U.K. government has finally resorted to an international organization to find a diplomatic solution to the Malvinas issue."

"Malvinas" is Argentina's term for the Falkland Islands.

British officials say the Argentine position is counterproductive because Britain, a major investor in Argentina, exercises considerable influence in Argentina's economy.

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