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(Newsvine) Britain is preparing to claim tens of thousands of square miles of Atlantic seabed around some of the country's remote island possessions, a newspaper reported Saturday, including areas around the Falkland Islands.
The Guardian said Britain plans to exploit an international rule that allows countries to claim underwater territory as far away as 350 miles from its shoreline.
The claims include areas around the Falklands, some 8,000 miles from the British mainland; Ascension Island, a volcanic island in the middle of the Atlantic; and Rockall - a tiny, uninhabited rock 200 miles off the Scottish coast.
Preliminary talks on Rockall are due to be held next week in Iceland, Chris Carleton, the head of law of the sea division of Britain's Hydrographic Office, told The Guardian.
Carleton said the Falklands claim was the most likely to be contentious. The status of the British-run Falklands is hotly disputed by Argentina, which also claims sovereignty over the islands and fought a war over the territory in 1982. Relations have improved since, but Argentina still claims the Falklands as its own and recently pulled out of a 1995 agreement to explore for oil and gas in the region.
Britain already has licenses for exploratory drilling within a 200-mile radius of the islands, The Guardian said, adding that the new claims would extend the area under British control up to the area around South Georgia, an even more remote British island deep in the south Atlantic.
"It effectively joins up the area around South Georgia to the Falklands," Carleton was quoted as saying. "It's a claim but how it's handled has not been decided yet. It's all a bit tricky."
Britain's Foreign Office said it had no information on the plans, while Carleton did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.