Nov. 22 (UPI) -- The British government ignored a United Nations-imposed deadline Friday to hand over control of the Chagos Islands in the central Indian Ocean to Mauritius, after what the global body says has been more than a half-century of illegal rule.
The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution in May to accept a ruling by the International Court of Justice that demanded Britain withdraw its colonial administration and turn over control to Mauritius. The resolution gave London until Friday to comply.
British commonwealth minister Tariq Ahmad said Britain has controlled the islands, and the region, for more than 200 years.
"[Britain] has no doubt as to our sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory, which has been under continuous British sovereignty since 1814. Mauritius has never held sovereignty ... and [Britain] does not recognize its claim."
Ahmad said the British government is "disappointed" the court ruling has "enabled Mauritius to circumvent the basic principle that the court should not consider a bilateral dispute without the consent of both states concerned."
Mauritius has called Britain "illegal colonial occupiers" in the Chagos Islands, and said its government flagrantly violates the resolution.
"The Republic of Mauritius is the sole state lawfully entitled to exercise sovereignty and sovereign rights over the Chagos Archipelago and its maritime zones and to organize visits to the Chagos Archipelago," the Mauritius government said in a statement in June.
"As such, [Britain], which is an illegal colonial occupant, has no right to organize such visits, which amount to a manifest violation of international law."
Mauritius said it was forced to give up the island in 1965 to gain its independence.
On of the isles, Diego Garcia, has housed U.S. military facilities that provide aircraft support and remote satellite tracking systems, along with an Air Force Space Command and Pacific Air Force support.
If Britain loses control of the islands, the United States would have to negotiate with the Mauritius government to continue operating the facilities.