Britain hauls in Uruguay ambassador over Falklands move

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Britain summoned Uruguay's ambassador on Friday over its refusal to allow ships flying the Falkland Islands flag to dock in its ports.

Uruguayan President Jose Mujica made the declaration on Thursday, saying it was acting in support of neighbouring Argentina's claim on the South Atlantic Ocean archipelago, which Britain has held since 1833.

Britain's Foreign Office said it would be "disappointing" if Uruguay supported Argentina's "shameful" actions, adding that neither London nor the Falklands would give in to bullying or blackmail.

Diplomatic friction between Argentina and Britain has intensified since 2010, when London authorised oil prospecting around the Falklands. The internally self-governing islands have a population of around 3,000.

"Uruguay's decision is potentially very disturbing," a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.

"We have summoned their ambassador this afternoon to express our strongest concerns, and to ask for clarification. We are considering our next steps carefully.

"It would be disappointing if Uruguay has resolved to support Argentina's shameful attempts to damage a small island people's economy and livelihood by blocking their access to free trade.

"We have no doubt about our sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and will continue to support the Falkland Islanders' right to determine their own political future.

"Neither we nor the Falklands will bend to those who seek to bully or blackmail the islands."

Britain won a short but bloody war in 1982 after Argentina's military junta invaded the islands.

The Argentine forces, which invaded on April 2, 1982 surrendered on June 14. The conflict cost the lives of 649 Argentine and 255 British troops.

© 2011 AFP

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